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An increasing number of St. Louis County's long-term care facilities grapple with COVID-19

10 facilities across the county have active cases of COVID-19.

Chris Jensen file
The Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center in July shortly after the very first COVID-19 case affiliated with the facility was reported. (File / News Tribune)

As St. Louis County COVID-19 case counts broke records this week , a growing number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities around the county have contributed to those record-high diagnoses.

As of Saturday, 10 long-term care facilities in St. Louis County had active cases of coronavirus. Compared to the rest of the state, the county has a higher rate of exposures linked to congregated care facilities.

Of the county's total confirmed COVID-19 cases, 17% can be linked to a congregated living facility. Statewide, 12% are linked to a congregated living facility.

Since the coronavirus first entered the Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center in Duluth in July, 41 residents and 21 employees have tested positive.

Seven of those residents have lost their lives. Nearly all of the 41 deaths from COVID-19 recorded in St. Louis County were residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities.


"Of those affected, we celebrate the recovery of 28 residents and staff," said Executive Director John DeLuca. "In addition, we are mourning the deaths of seven residents since the virus first presented itself at Chris Jensen. We extend our deepest sympathies to their loved ones and continue being a resource for them throughout their time of grief."

The facility is currently testing residents and staff twice a week in accordance with guidance from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. DeLuca said that with increased test availability and frequency comes a rise in cases at many facilities, including Chris Jensen.

"Our team is committed to doing everything we can to stop the spread of this virus in our care community, especially given the rise in cases in the county," he said. "Our team has been diligent in their efforts to see that individuals who test positive have every resource available to support their recovery."

After a recent round of testing, Benedictine Living Community-Duluth is reporting several new cases of COVID-19.

The long-term care facility found two residents and three staff with infections after a round of testing on Thursday. In total, four Benedictine residents are currently in isolation, and five employees are quarantining in their homes.

Of the new cases, two residents and two of the staff members are located in Benedictine Health Center, while the other staff member works in Westwood, according to a posting on the community's website .

As of Thursday, 19 residents and 18 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at Benedictine since the pandemic's start.

Benedictine discovered a COVID-19 outbreak in June, which claimed two lives and infected 13 residents and seven staff. The outbreak was contained in late July.


The facility has halted outdoor visits, compassionate care visits and essential caregiver visits until further notice. Benedictine still offers phone calls, email, postal mail, and virtual and window visits.

"We deeply appreciate the sacrifices you are making to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our community and ask for your continued patience as we prepare our setting to resume safe visitation and other activities," the online post said.

To prevent the virus' spread, Benedictine screens residents daily for symptoms, checks temperatures daily, encourages residents to wear face masks when they leave their room or a staff member enters their room, encourages social distancing, requires staff to wear face masks and eye protection, uses enhanced infection control measures and more.

Benedictine didn't respond to a phone call requesting comment.

Four of the people who died from COVID-19 in St. Louis County were residents of Carefree Living, an assisted living facility in Ely. On Aug. 31 the facility announced in a post on its website the first cases within the facility. After a staff member tested positive, the whole facility was tested, revealing two resident infections.

The News Tribune did not receive a response to a request for comment from Carefree Living.

Facilities are removed from the state's outbreak list after a minimum of 28 days with no new COVID-19 exposures. The outbreaks also include The Waterview Woods in Eveleth as well as Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center, both of which did not return calls.


The Benedictine Living Community in Duluth, pictured in late June. (File / News Tribune)

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