COVID-19 kills 10, infects all 52 other residents at Norton nursing home

A nursing home in Norton has been identified as a cluster site for COVID-19 with at least 37 positive tests among residents. This image depicts a test tube with viral transport media that contained a patient’s sample to be tested for the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

TOPEKA — COVID-19 overran a privately owned Norton nursing home to leave 10 dead and all of the 52 other residents stricken with the virus, officials said Monday night.

The Norton County Health Department spokesman said the problem surfaced at Andbe Home, which has a reported capacity of 70 residents. It’s not clear when the outbreak began or when state officials learned of mass fatalities from the cluster.

One resident of the nursing home remained hospitalized. The 51 others were under quarantine at the nursing home and no visitors were allowed inside Andbe Home, said spokesman Robert Wyatt.

Wyatt said in a statement family members of the residents have been notified. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment was working with Andbe Home and the county health department. Kansas division of emergency management provided resources to the county to help mitigate the outbreak, he said.

“Some staff members have tested positive for COVID and the remaining staff are currently being tested,” Wyatt said.

A woman who answered the telephone Monday at Andbe Home said managers of the nursing facility weren’t prepared to comment on the outbreak of COVID-19.

“I don’t think they have anything to say right now,” she said.

In May, federal records show, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services informed administrators of Andbe Home the facility was in “immediate jeopardy” for failing to have staff wear face coverings while in the facility, failure to develop COVID-19 policies and procedures and failure to educate staff on how to prevent development and transmission of the coronavirus.

Federal HHS records indicate the nursing home’s administrators “verified staff did not wear a mask in the facility and had not since the COVID-19 disease precautions started in March.” Andbe Home was brought into compliance within one day of the initial notice, the records said.

The resurgence of coronavirus in the county prompted Norton County Hospital and Medical Clinic and the county’s health department Friday to encourage the public “to increase personal awareness and precautions.” No mandate was issued, but residents were asked to consider isolation and quarantine requirements could limit availability of health care staff.

The hospital and clinic, which has a bed capacity of 25, also imposed a ban on visitors to the facility in Norton. Exceptions were made for one parent or guardian to a minor child and two people when a family was dealing with end-of-life issues.

Norton County Hospital’s capacity is two COVID-positive inpatients. The message to county residents warned that “larger area hospitals could fill up and not accept transfers from smaller rural hospitals.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.
Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where he started on the copy desk, then oversaw digital operations, was the managing editor and reported from the Statehouse. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.