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Document: JMS Senior Living letter to residents and families

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The News Tribune is offering this article free to all readers because it includes information important to public safety and health in our community.

Although three people who tested positive for COVID-19 at a Jefferson City nursing home died, the Cole County Health Department has not been notified any of them died specifically because of the coronavirus.

The nursing home residents died from underlying causes, according to a news release from JMS Senior Living, which owns Jefferson City Manor at 1720 Vieth Drive. Thirty-six other residents of the facility and 28 employees also tested positive for the virus.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service's website showed Tuesday three people in Cole County had died of the virus (two confirmed cases happened months ago), while the Cole County Health Department's website still showed only two deaths.

The discrepancy may have to do with the chain of communication, said Kristi Campbell, Cole County Health Department director.

Hospitals notify DHSS directly of COVID-19 deaths. That agency then notifies the counties.

"We haven't received official notice of the deaths from the long-term care facility as of yet," Campbell told the News Tribune on Tuesday. "I also did hear that those deaths could have been from underlying health conditions, so we want to make sure we report those accurately."

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Meanwhile, the county is waiting to hear the official cause of death for another Cole County resident who died last week, she added.

"I believe that all the deaths we had so far — the person has had underlying health conditions. But again, those are determinations and diagnoses made by the patient's physician or the hospital," Campbell said.

The News Tribune reached out to the Jefferson City Manor health provider and to the county coroner for more confirmation, but the organization would not comment based on concerns about the federal Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act.

Whether the nursing home residents previously lived in another county, they are considered residents of Cole County now, Campbell said. So, if they die of COVID-19, they will show in local data.

Last week's jump in coronavirus cases in Cole County may mostly be attributable to the outbreak at the nursing facility, she said. County data show on Aug. 11, the county confirmed 11 cases, 38 on Aug. 12, 12 on Aug. 13, 29 on Aug. 14, 57 on Aug. 15, and 23 on Aug. 16.

Those cases brought Cole County to a top 10 county in Missouri in terms of number of new cases for the week (making it a "hotspot").

Campbell expects the numbers to drop below the top 10 again this week.

Cole County has confirmed a total of 585 positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, with 147 cases remaining active as of Tuesday.

A challenge, Campbell said Tuesday, is that people in Central Missouri seem to be forgetting the necessity to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

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A Cole County Health Department news release Tuesday said 72 percent of positive cases in the county are travel-related or from contacts with a known case.

"Separate from the current outbreak at a long-term care facility in Jefferson City, positive cases in the community have increased because of increased interaction and a lack of following issued guidance," the release states. "We are urging everyone to continue to take responsibility for their own health and to protect others."

The county Health Department is "strongly recommending" people take precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the virus by:

- Staying at home if you are sick.

- Adhering to social distancing requirements (staying 6 feet away from others).

- Wearing a face covering when in close contact with others.

- Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating.

- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, elbow or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

Cloth face coverings should not be considered an acceptable substitute for social distancing. Cloth face coverings should be washed after each use.

Community members can call the Cole County Health Department at 573-636-2181 or DHSS at 877-435-8411 to address COVID-19-related questions.

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