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Advocates worry over dozens of COVID-19 cases inside LTC facility in Navajo County

Posted at 3:05 PM, Oct 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 10:53:30-04

Advocates for Arizona’s most vulnerable populations tell ABC15 they want to know what a long-term care facility is hiding in the Pinetop-Lakeside area.

After five days of trying to get confirmation, ABC15 has learned that Haven of Lakeside has had dozens of residents test positive for COVID-19.

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A spokesperson for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said on Wednesday that Haven of Lakeside reported 41 new COVID cases in the reporting period that ended on Oct. 18.

CMS requires nursing homes to report new COVID-positive cases weekly into the Centers for Disease Control's National Healthcare Safety Network system.

This data is coming from the feds because Governor Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ are keeping this information secret. ABC15 and other local media went to court earlier this year to force the governor and Dr. Christ to release the information. Judge Christopher Coury ruled that while state law favored release, state law also allows the governor to keep the information under wraps.

Only a new law could force a change.

This confirmation from a spokesperson with CMS came after ABC15 had been reaching out to Haven of Lakeside officials since Friday about concerns over a rise in cases inside the facility. However, after multiple attempts to reach out to the facility, no one has responded.

Dana Kennedy, with the Arizona Chapter of the Association of Retired Persons (AARP), tells ABC15 that the facility has capacity for 112 beds, but said they are likely not all filled. That would mean at least one-third of all residents are positive.

“The other thing that is absolutely critical is transparency, it is why we have called for transparency from day one because the workers live in the community, and if there’s an outbreak in the facility, it was most likely not brought in from a worker,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said schools consider two or more positive cases an outbreak, so she says this would be considered an outbreak to her.

It is unclear if any staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, but Kennedy said it would be likely.

It is also unclear if anyone has died.

Officials for Navajo County tells ABC15 that a Public Health Nursing team is working with a facility in Pinetop-Lakeside, but would not disclose details on the outbreak.

A statement read in part, “due to privacy for the families, staff and residents I need to refer you to the facility for any additional information.”

Fire officials with the Timber Mesa Fire District tell ABC15 in the past 16 days, they have responded 24 times for COVID-related calls at this location.

Kennedy said the facility is a skilled nursing facility that is being paid by Medicare, as well as the state Medicaid. She thinks that the state needs to be looking at this nursing facility's licensing status.

Haven of Lakeside had a history of citations for infection control this past summer.

Documents with the Arizona Department of Health Services show that the facility was cited twice in June for having residents and staff members in the same dining area. The survey report from the Division of Licensing Services with ADHS states that the facility was warned that the virus could spread, saying “the deficient practice could result in the spread of infection, including COVID-19 to residents and staff."

As for the facility not responding to requests about what is happening, Kennedy is calling for transparency.

“There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be talking to the press unless they’re hiding something and I would say that if they’re not talking to you because they’re hiding something and I want to know what they’re hiding,” she said.