LEWISTOWN — Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials announced one Montana Mental Health Nursing Care Center (NCC) resident and two employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We know that individuals living and working in congregate settings are some of the most vulnerable to COVID-19,” Hogan said. “Since March, Nursing Care Center staff have implemented all required health and safety protocols to ensure for the health and safety of residents and staff. Additional steps have been taken now that positive cases have been identified. We have been preparing for this situation, and we be doing all we can to mitigate the spread of the virus.”

The resident tested positive on Wednesday, September 2. And through ongoing surveillance testing, the two employee positives were identified on Thursday, September 3. The two employees, both female registered nurses, were asymptomatic and had been working this week. Both are now isolating at home. The resident has experienced mild symptoms. The facility has dedicated space in the facility for patients who test positive. All staff have been wearing masks since April 1.

Per guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the facility will now test staff and patients twice a week. This will continue until no COVID-19 positives are identified.

NCC officials are working directly with staff of the DPHHS Public Health and Safety Division and Central Montana Health District to conduct contact tracing to identify any close contacts of community members outside the facility as part of the ongoing investigation.

Hogan said numerous COVID-19 preventive safety measures were put in place in March and have been revised as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines are updated for healthcare facilities in response to COVID-19.

In May, the facility had participated in Governor Steve Bullock’s enhanced surveillance testing that involve state and county congregate living settings, such as state correctional institutions, mental health facilities, treatment centers and facilities for those with developmental needs. No positive cases were identified through this earlier testing.

Facility administrator Dianne Scotten said since March 12, 2020, the NCC has restricted visitors and have actively screened individuals which includes staff and residents. Scotten said staff has been encouraged to stay home if they felt sick or have a cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, shortness of breath, and/or diarrhea.

The facility has implemented all infectious control measures, emphasized proper hand washing, covering mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and conducted routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.

“We continue to be in close contact with the national, state, and the local health department and are following their guidance and requirements,” Scotten said. “Our number one priority continues to be providing the safest environment possible for the residents we care so much about.”

Additional steps were quickly implemented since the positive tests were confirmed:

Surveillance of residents has increased from two times a day to three times. Staff surveillance has increased from once a day to two times a day. Patient vitals have been monitored two times a day since March 9.

Since April 1, staff have worn masks, and now full PPE will be added to include gowns, face shields, goggles and gloves.

Visitors continue to be restricted as they have been since March 12.

New admissions have been postponed.

The NCC is a Medicare and Medicaid-certified residential facility for long-term placement and treatment of persons who have a mental disorder and who require a level of care not available in the community; and have been turned down by other nursing homes or community placements. These persons have been determined a danger to self and others; require long-term care; and cannot benefit from the intensive psychiatric treatment available at the Montana State Hospital. 

It is administered by the DPHHS Addictive and Mental Disorders Division.

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