Gap nursing home outbreak is confirmed


Raging COVID-19 cases in the region have struck hard at a local long-term care facility.

Heritage Hall in Big Stone Gap has reported 190 cases of the virus among staff and residents, with eight hospitalizations and 21 deaths as of Nov. 18, according to regional health district Director Dr. Sue Cantrell.

Robert Parker, the public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health’s western region, sent an email Wednesday night providing information from Cantrell in response to an inquiry about rumors of a virus outbreak at the facility.

Calls to the Big Stone Gap facility have been unanswered, as well as several attempts to reach the parent company, American Healthcare.

There had been widespread comments in the community about an outbreak at Heritage Hall, although no Wise County long-term care facilities have been listed in the health department’s database of virus outbreaks. There appears to be a lag in updating information.

“Remember that even though data on the VDH website are updated frequently (daily or weekly) they will land behind the actual real-time counts,” Cantrell stated. “They are not always accurate up-to-the-minute.”
Cantrell explained that all residents of Virginia long-term care facilities are considered residents of Virginia and are counted in long-term care date as well as statewide data. However, that is not the case for long-term care employees who live in other states.

“If they fall ill with COVID-19 and become associated with an LTC outbreak in Virginia, they will be counted in Virginia LTC data but not Virginia’s statewide data,” according to Cantrell.

Cantrell suggested that asymptomatic staff may be infecting others without knowing they are sick. She added, “This is true for all of us, always and everywhere; which is why precautions are so important in limiting the spread of illness, always and everywhere.”