Heritage Place looks to reopen Monday after employee tests positive for COVID-19

A second test taken by the employee came back negative.

Tables in the dining room of the Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility are arranged for social distancing. (Photo courtesy Sandi Crawford)

Tables in the dining room of the Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility are arranged for social distancing. (Photo courtesy Sandi Crawford)

Heritage Place Skilled Nursing facility is expecting to reopen visitations to residents as early as Monday after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

The facility last week began offering more intimate visits between residents and visitors for the first time in months after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued new guidance that said residents who are fully vaccinated could hug and touch visitors.

Heritage Place Administrator Sandi Crawford said Wednesday that the staff member tested positive during a round of routine COVID testing. When the employee was tested a second time, however, the result came back negative. The facility is awaiting further guidance from the state’s Epidemiology division about how they should proceed given the conflicting test results. The staff member who tested positive was fully vaccinated and is asymptomatic.

As of last Thursday, Crawford said about 40% of Heritage Place staff and about 72% of residents had already received the COVID-19 vaccine. Residents and staff of long-term care facilities have been eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Alaska since last December.

Statewide, 69% of Alaskans 65 and older had already received at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, according to the state’s Vaccine Monitoring Dashboard. That’s compared to 60.9% who had already received both. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, just under 60% of seniors have at least one dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, while just over 50% have received both.

Crawford said Wednesday that the report of the staff member’s positive COVID-19 test result has not resulted in a large increase in the number of Heritage Place staff who have reached out to be vaccinated, but that six new residents have already asked to be vaccinated.

As a subsidiary of Central Peninsula Hospital, Heritage Place staff are able to be vaccinated through the hospital, while Soldotna Professional Pharmacy is managing vaccines for residents. Residents will be considered “fully vaccinated” by the facility two weeks after they receive their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It’s going to be a while before those are counted in our percentage, but I think we only have just a very few [residents] that have decided not to,” Crawford said. “That is really good news for everybody, actually.”

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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