COVID has swept through two residential buildings at the Galeon Senior Living center in Osakis, claiming seven lives and infecting three-quarters of nursing home residents since getting its first case in October, its administrator confirmed Wednesday.
"I love these people like they're my own," said Administrator Angie Reinke. "This has been tough."
Galeon had successfully warded off the virus until late October, she said. But in a few short weeks, it has infected 75% of its 40 nursing home residents and 50-75% of its 19 assisted living residents. Most assisted living residents have had no symptoms, she said. But two of them died, as have five from the nursing home. Normally, Galeon sees five to 10 deaths a year, so the loss in this short a time span has been hard on staff, she said.
The memory care building and the independent living building have not had any COVID cases, Reinke said.
Some of the 125 staff members have also tested positive for COVID and had to quarantine, but at a much lower rate than residents, she said, and staffing levels have remained fine.
Galeon has set up a 10-bed wing specifically for those with COVID. Those who test positive stay there for 10-14 days before returning to their rooms.
Since mid-October, all residents have been in quarantine, she said, and staff has been wearing personal protective equipment. They change clothes on the property and shower before returning home.
"I couldn't compliment them more on the outstanding job they have done," she said. "They have worn their emotions on their sleeves."
Galeon is not the only Douglas County elder home that is battling the pandemic. Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds, Knute Nelson Care Center, Evansville Care Center, Edgewood Alexandria Senior Living and Bethany on the Lake have all reported exposure from a case of COVID-19 in a resident, staff person, or visiting provider, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
COVID infections have been shooting up in Douglas County with 361 active cases and 13 total deaths. Minnesota reported a record number of 56 deaths on Wednesday. Most of Minnesota's 2,754 deaths have been long-term care or assisted living facilities, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Mike Schlosser of Carlos said his mother, Iona Schlosser Wolbeck, died Monday, Nov. 9, of COVID while at Galeon.
"She was getting up in age but she caught it and it killed her," he said. "Two nights before, they called us and she was moaning because her bones were aching."
Family members were able to say good-bye by speaker phone from the window, and Schlosser said you could tell she was listening because she smirked when the grandchildren said, "Grandma." Nurses were with her when she died, he said, and they played church music for her, which she liked.
He wished she had been able to die peacefully, not of COVID.
"This way here was sort of rough on her," he said.
The evening before Wolbeck died, Viola Johnson, 94, passed away at Galeon. That too was COVID, confirmed her daughter, Janet Sampson of Osakis.
"I've got COVID. I'm not feeling very strong," Sampson said.
Dan Quistorff of Osakis said his father, Orville Quistorff, a Galeon resident, died on Oct. 30. He was 91.
"They called us one night and told us he got COVID," Quistorff said. "My brother went in there and sat with him and he got COVID, too. He was pretty sick yesterday."
His dad had Alzheimer's, although he still recognized people, Quistorff said. At one point, he was able to see his father through the window.
"His whole body was shaking, like he was freezing to death," he said. And his brother told him it was hot in the room, he said.
Quistorff said an acquaintance was telling him that COVID was exaggerated and that he hadn't known anybody who had died of it.
"We just buried my dad," he told the man.
He added, "It's hard to believe he's gone."
Anne Nathe of Osakis said her mother, Frances Sauer, is one of the Galeon residents who has COVID. At one point, they thought she was going to die, so they summoned the priest to administer the annointing of the sick, sometimes called last rites.
However, she rallied and when the priest visited her on Nov. 10, she was sitting in her wheelchair talking.
"If she can pull through this, it would be amazing," she said.
Nathe said she would like to be able to get information about her mother more easily from Galeon. Reinke said that someone is now calling families daily to update them on their loved ones' condition.
In a Nov. 9 message to families, Reinke wrote that she was seeing one or two positive tests every few days, and that symptoms were varying greatly.
The Minnesota Department of Health had surveyed Galeon's infection control, she said.
"Our surveyor complimented all our staff on what a great job they are doing," she wrote. "We were issued no citations or recommendations. The surveyor felt Galeon was doing everything they could to keep the residents and tenants safe. We are encouraging anyone that has questions to please call."
Reinke said she is optimistic that Galeon has seen the worst.
"We are pretty much past the peak," she said.