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St. Louis County Nursing Homes Report More Than 800 Positive Coronavirus Cases In December

Delmar Gardens' Meramec Valley facility on April 30, 2020.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
Delmar Gardens Meramec Valley reported at least 100 residents have been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

St. Louis County nursing homes reported that at least 818 residents tested positive for the coronavirus in December, down from a record 1,047 the month before.

But at least 73 nursing home residents in the county died from the coronavirus in December.

The numbers could change as the county continues to receive death certificates and more data from area hospitals and facilities, St. Louis County Department of Public Health spokesperson Christopher Ave said.

Since the pandemic began, nursing home residents have accounted for 6.7% of the county's coronavirus cases but 54.7% of deaths from the virus.

While nursing homes have restrictions on outside visitors to limit the spread of the virus, they can't completely block the virus from their facilities, Ave said.

“Even though those of us who have a loved one in a nursing home or a residential care facility cannot go and see them in person because of the restrictions due to COVID, that doesn’t mean people in the outside world aren’t getting inside,” Ave said. “Whenever you have a high rate of transmission or increase in numbers of new cases in the community, there is a corresponding risk inside these residential homes.”

Advocates for the elderly say that nursing home residents are vulnerable and that the close care many caregivers and nurses have to give residents makes contracting the coronavirus a safety risk.

“You have aides and nurses, they're helping to blow noses, they're helping to change diapers or help them go to the bathroom, and shower,” said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a nonprofit that advocates for long-term care residents. “Those are not things that you can do at arm's length, so it makes it very easy for that virus to transmit.”

Nursing homes started working with local pharmacies to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities. Moore said that she’s pleased to see the vaccine rolling out at facilities across the St. Louis region, and that many are going through or starting the first round of vaccinations. But Moore said the vaccine is only effective as more people take it.

“We are hearing that there are a lot of staff members and there are a lot of residents who are declining the vaccine,” Moore said. “That's something that they were concerned about too, because we really want the most people vaccinated as possible in our community as a whole, so we would hope that especially our most vulnerable would get that vaccination.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.