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Bucktail CEO ‘optimistic’ virus outbreak under control

SOUTH RENOVO — Bucktail Medical Center Nursing Facility was on day 11 on Tuesday with no new positive residents and staff, its CEO told The Express.

“Our goal is to be 14 days with no new resident or staff positives so we can return to ‘normal,'” said Timothy J. Reeves.

Reeves provided The Express with an update on the situation at the facility in western Clinton County, where there was an outbreak of COVID-19.

“On Dec. 29, the date of our first positives, we moved from testing all residents and staff twice weekly to testing all negative residents and staff daily. We will continue daily testing at least until we achieve 14 consecutive days with no new positives,” he said.

BMC consulted with infectious disease specialists and was able to acquire 20 doses of Bamlanivimab, monoclonal antibodies developed by Eli Lilly.

The antibodies are cloned in a laboratory from human SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) antibodies, but they do not contain any genetic material that can be a source of negative reactions.

Treatment consists of one dose administered by IV.

“We have been able to secure an additional five doses. These antibodies provide near immediate defense against COVID-19,” Reeves explained.

Of 24 residents infected with COVID-19, 17 were clinically eligible for and received the treatment as early as Jan. 1.

It is not known if monoclonal antibodies provide long term immunity, so it is recommended that these residents be vaccinated 90 days after receiving the treatment.

Negative residents and many negative staff received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 6.

“Second doses will be administered on Jan. 27. This will also be a second opportunity for initial vaccination. Bucktail, like Susque-View, partnered with CVS Pharmacy for management and administration of the vaccines,” Reeves said.

Of the 24 infected residents, three have died due to COVID-19 related complications, he noted.

“In addition to the residents, we had 17 positive staff. Most have returned to work after self-isolation. Two were hospitalized, one has died,” he related.

In the early stages of the outbreak, BMC did receive staffing assistance from the National Guard.

“They provided one licensed nurse, seven medics, and seven ‘general purpose’ workers. The nurse and medics helped staff our ‘red zone’ while the general purpose workers assisted with materials management, inventory, housekeeping, and maintenance,” according to Reeves.

Guard members worked at the facility for five days.

“We are extremely grateful for the assistance they provided, helping us manage the initial outbreak. We also contacted our Regional Congregate Care Assistance Team (RCAT), a program where Geisinger, at the time, contracted with the state to offer assistance during an outbreak. Two private staffing agencies are working with RCAT and were able to provide some additional staffing,” he said.

The hospital president praised his staff as “remarkable.”

“Many therapy and administrative staff have transitioned from their regular duties to providing assistance for resident care. Asymptomatic positive staff have come to work in the ‘red zone.’ Some nurses and other staff have worked around the clock: There is a cot in the director of nursing’s (DON’s) office,” he said.

While staffing different zones continues to be challenging, Reeves said he is “optimistic we can reach 14 days with no new infections this Friday.”

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