Liz McCormick Published

New Strike Team Formed To Respond To Coronavirus Outbreaks In W.Va. Nursing Homes

Researchers say 70% of nursing homes are for-profit, and low staffing is common.

A new strike team has been formed to more quickly tackle COVID-19 outbreaks in West Virginia’s nursing homes. The effort is also aimed at better helping smaller facilities in rural areas.

Dr. Ayne Amjad, West Virginia’s state health officer, announced the initiative in a recent virtual press briefing with Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials. She said the new strike team has already been working over the past couple months.

“We have attempted to form a regionalized team within three around the state,” Amjad said. “The team will consist of our National Guard team members as well as partnerships throughout the state. We refer to them as a buddy system.”

The teams are alerted to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes through a special phone call system at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

After receiving a call from an affected nursing home, a strike team enters the facility within 24-48 hours and begins robust testing measures and cleaning.

“These teams will have consult teams [including] infectious disease specialists, pulmonary specialists, as well as nursing home specialist teams,” she said. “We’ve partnered with other physicians and consult teams at WVU Medicine, Marshall University, as well as other Hospital Association members.”

Amjad said the state had already been responding to outbreaks in nursing homes, but she said the key differences with the new strike teams are the number of partners involved and a now dedicated focus to reach more rural areas.

“We’re asking volunteer consult teams to participate a little more actively,” she said. “The local health departments were always running to the fire with us, as well as the National Guard, and they’re still participating in the strike team. This is more of a focused group [that would help] a nursing home that’s in a very small, rural community that might not have resources as perhaps a larger nursing home.”

In Wednesday’s virtual press briefing with the governor, Justice said there are currently 43 outbreaks in the state’s long-term care facilities.