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COVID-19 cases now rare in nursing homes; Chateau De Notre Dame residents relish more normalcy

La. Dept. of Health says 9 COVID cases reported recently in nursing homes statewide
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 7:40 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - COVID-19 cases in nursing homes in Louisiana are now rare and residents at a local nursing home are thrilled life is more normal now.

Carol Dienes is a resident at Chateau De Notre Dame.

“And it’s like heaven all of a sudden, it is. I love it because I love people,” said Dienes.

Visitors and having meals together are again allowed at the facility.

“I have visitors that come, my sister just came from Virginia, I had a wonderful visit,” said Dienes. “They had things like for Father’s Day, they had activities and for Mother’s Day they will have activities; it just makes you feel good.”

Andrew Cedor is Administrator of Chateau De Notre Dame. He says having fewer restrictions has helped residents in myriad ways.

“I’ve noticed that people are less depressed, they’re eating more so there’s less weight loss issues. We have people who are more oriented to their person, place in time, so they’re just generally with it cognitively and their spirits are just uplifted more so and then having visits, being able to have loved ones,” said Cedor.

Dienes recalls when they could not have visitors.

“That was one heartache,” she said.

Deacon Jeff Tully is CEO of Notre Dame Health System, a ministry within the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He said they have three nursing homes.

“And we do mass in our facilities and so it’s changed the whole, I guess it’s changed the culture of being a sad time of life because you couldn’t have visitors and people having broken hearts to it’s like, oh wow, it’s now better, now we can do that, now we can embrace,” said Tully.

He said that has helped not only residents but their families and staffers.

“Not just in the residents but in the families but one thing that we have found is we see the joy in our own staff, you know, because it helps them just to have that camaraderie, you know, with people in coming in, and it helps us to keep us transparent as well, to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do for the residents. It’s a beautiful thing,” Tully stated.

Senior citizens were among the first to be vaccinated in Louisiana.

Dienes said yes to getting the vaccine.

“I felt very good about it,” Dienes said. “I think the whole world was scared of that virus but so far, so good.”

Cedor said coronavirus case numbers started dropping soon after residents began getting vaccinated.

“It’s been wonderful. Almost within a couple of weeks when we completed our first clinic, we noticed that the incident rates within the facility was going down, and then also the city was going down, so that residents that were coming in weren’t a threat and we can feel better about our admission process and who we brought into the community,” said Cedor.

“So in residents, we’re in the 90-percentile of people that have been vaccinated,” said Tully.

Early in the pandemic, the virus hit nursing homes hard, but vaccinations have had a huge impact.

The Louisiana Department of Health told FOX 8 for the week of June 7th there were reports of only nine coronavirus cases in nursing homes statewide.

Dr. Shantel Hébert-Magee is LDH’s Region Medical Director. That region includes the Greater New Orleans area.

“During the height of the pandemic 40 percent of individuals who died from COVID were in nursing homes, so because 85 percent of nursing home residents have been vaccinated it has proven to be a powerful tool in our fight against this pandemic,” said Hébert-Magee.

“According to the Louisiana Department of Health standards right now if you have one person who tests positive it’s an outbreak, you know, so you have to lock down the facility again, so all of a sudden things stop,” said Tully.

And because of the decline in cases, Chateau de Notre Dame has been able to close its COVID-19 unit.

“We’ve even gotten to the point where we closed down our COVID unit that we had set up because of the rates have declined not only within the community but in the hospitals,” Cedor said.

Tully says some precautions remain in place.

“You still have to wear a mask, you still have to take your temperature every time you come in and we can’t let our guard down with that right now because that can get away from us,” he said.

He said residents have been overwhelmingly amenable to being vaccinated.

“We’re finding that the residents are fine with getting vaccinated, you know, it’s the staff and what we found is that the staff who are under the age of 50 have a lot of questions, you know, about it and are not sure that they want to do that. The older residents, and the older staff not a problem,” said Tully.

Tully said before the vaccinations began they educated nursing home residents and staffers about the shots.

“We’ve done town halls, we’ve had our medical director talk to them, so we’re encouraging them, but we can’t mandate that, at this point, you know, but we are encouraging them, we’re doing the best we can to try to continue to encourage people,” he said.

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