Barb City Manor in DeKalb March 25, 2020.
Barb City Manor in DeKalb March 25, 2020.

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DeKALB - A resident at Barb City Manor, DeKalb's independent living center for seniors, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to confirmation from another resident and documents from the facility.

According to documents obtained by the Daily Chronicle, the resident, a woman living at Barb City Manor, is in the process of moving to another facility and as part of that move was required to be tested for the viral respiratory disease that to date has claimed the lives of 22 residents at long-term care facilities in DeKalb County.

Because the facility is not a nursing home or long-term care center, however, COVID-19 testing will not be mandatory for facility residents or staff, documents show. It's also unknown whether any more coronavirus cases in DeKalb County announced this week are linked to the manor, since health departments are only required to report those linked to long-term care facilities.

The woman was tested July 31 and her positive results came back Aug. 2, though she was not experiencing any symptoms and was still asymptomatic at the time Barb City Manor sent a letter Aug. 3 to all its residents, documents show.

When contacted for comment on Friday, staff at Barb City Manor did not immediately respond.

Roberta Armstrong, another resident of the manor who's lived there since September of 2019, said the woman is quarantined to her own room right now and, as a precaution, all other residents are being required to take their meals in their own rooms. Visitors, except for caregivers, are also prohibited from entering the facility, Armstrong said.

"So they're taking precautions, but at the time that I called you, it was all hush hush," Armstrong said. "They told us we were completely locked down, we couldn't go out. Well, we are allowed to leave and come back now."

In the Aug. 3 letter sent to manor residents, Barb City administrators shared recommendations they've been given from the DeKalb County Health Department. Health department staff also did not respond to requests for comment.

Because Barb City Manor is an independent living facility and not a long-term care facility or nursing home, COVID-19 testing will not be administered to residents or staff, the letter states. That also means Barb City Manor staff can't restrict residents who don't test positive to their apartments, the letter states.

"The health department has advised us that it is in the best interest of our residents and staff to suspend congregate meals and isolate residents for 14 days as of the date that the COVID-19 positive test was administered," the letter reads.

Manor staff now deliver meals to residents in their apartments, and residents must wear a mask when staff arrive, which should cover their mouth and nose, the letter states.

However, the letter encourages residents or staff to take steps to get their own test if they feel it's warranted due to symptoms or if they spent more than 15 minutes at less than six feet away from the woman who tested positive.

According to the letter, prompt COVID-19 testing results may be in short supply these days, as a doctor's order is required for rapid testing and drive-thru testing sites are "low priority," the letter states, with many waiting two to three weeks for results.

"If you are tested and receive notice that you are COVID-19 positive, the isolation period for BCM residents starts over, effective the date your test was administered," the letter states.

The independent living center can, however, require all residents to wear masks when moving around the building, ensuring everyone's mouth and nose are covered; require residents to practice social distancing and prohibit residents from congregating in common areas, the letter reads. Staff can also limit the number of people on elevators to one person at a time unless two residents, for instance, live in the same apartment.

The letter states that staff can also limit Barb City Manor visitors to essential workers only.

"Residents that are not COVID-19 positive may do their own personal laundry and check their mail if they wear masks and take social distancing precautions," the letter states.

Those who are virus free may also leave the building, go for walks, etc., but are asked to follow public health protocols when they leave to avoid putting themselves, other residents and manor staff at risk.

Armstrong said, despite the scare at the beginning of the month, she feels "kind of safe now" because staff are keeping everyone separated from the resident in an attempt to mitigate any spread.

Armstrong said she's surprised the virus hadn't breached Barb City Manor's walls until now, month six of the pandemic.

"We were worried because not everyone was made to wear a mask here," Armstrong said, adding that policy has since changed. "The staff has been very good about wearing masks."

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