Nursing homes close doors to visitors

MARQUETTE — Several events and buildings have been cancelled or closed in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus, and that includes buildings that house some of the most vulnerable in these situations.

Norlite Nursing Center in Marquette and Eastwood Nursing Center in Negaunee are both closing their doors to visitors until further notice to help protect their residents from being exposed to the coronavirus. There are currently no residents that have shown any symptoms at the facilities, but they’re following recommendations of the American Healthcare Association to keep their high-risk population as safe as possible.

“This virus, which we really don’t know a lot about—we’re learning more every day, but what we do know is that the elderly population is at the highest risk,” said Wayne Johnson, the Administrator at Norlite Nursing Center. “It’s somewhere between a 10 and 20% fatality rate currently, is what statistics are showing, for those 85 plus, which is a heavy amount of our population. So we want to keep it out, and in the event that we do cross that territory where someone does show symptoms, we want to make sure we stop it’s spread as much as possible.”

Only essential personnel will be allowed into the building and they will be going through screenings to ensure they will not be bringing the coronavirus into the building, such as getting their temperature taken and answering a questionnaire about recent travel activity, but the facility is also implementing procedures to help residents who may be missing visits from family and loved ones.

“Our residents really enjoy and depend on visits from friends and family, and to close that off is a very unique step,” Johnson said. “But of course it’s the most important thing right now for the safety and security of the residents. We are, however, setting up through our activities program facetime, skype, and texting. We’re trying to keep our residents active, engaged, and entertained. So while we’re canceling outside entertainers from coming in, we’re doing as much as we can to provide entertainment for our facility for the next several weeks.”

The nursing staff will be working to ensure the safety of the residents, and with the State of Michigan’s response to close the schools, it could cause some problems for some of the workers.

“I want to thank my staff, they are some of the most kind and dedicated people that you’ll ever meet, and they’re working hard to take care of the individuals that we care for,” said Johnson. “With schools closing, this could cause some childcare issues, so if you are friends with one of our employees we encourage you to reach out and offer help. We would appreciate the communities understanding in this unique time. We need to work together to take care of our most vulnerable population, which is the nursing home population, and that goes across the entire Upper Peninsula.”

The ban on visitors is expected to last for the foreseeable future, and anyone that is interested in skyping or facetiming with a resident at Norlite Nursing Center, you can call their office at (906)228-9252.