Pickering: 3 of 4 veterans nursing homes remain COVID free

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According to Stacey Pickering, the executive director of Veteran Affairs, three of the four veterans nursing homes in the state remain COVID free.

“Three of our facilities in Collins, Jackson, and Oxford remain COVID free,” he said. “From day one, not a single veteran in those homes have had the virus.”

Early and continuous preparation has been the key for those homes.

“When we had the first diagnosis down in Hattiesburg, the first case in Mississippi, we closed the homes, communicated with the families that employees only at this point,” Pickering recanted. “We had to reduce the risk and mitigate that risk coming in.”

While gathering PPE and making sure authorized personnel do not bring the virus into the buildings is hard enough in itself, the hardest part of all of this is keeping the former service members connected to their families.

Pickering and his team have had to find alternative methods of communication for residents and their families.

“We started off with Facebook. We bought a bunch of iPads and put them in the home, so family members could schedule a time that they could Facebook,” he explained. “We’re using Zoom, and we started in-face visits. The way our homes are built is we have a front porch, a big glass area so we call it the front porch visits. Families can call, schedule a time, and they’re visiting through the window.”

The one location that has suffered from COVID-19 is Kosicusco. The home there has already seen 13 people die from the virus.

“We’ve lost already 13 in our home in Kosciusco,” Pickering said. “The virus got in there and really impacted a lot of them.”

Besides preventing the Collins, Jackson, and Oxford homes from contamination, Pickering is also working on the construction of a fifth home.

“We did our groundbreaking in November, and we will start moving dirt later this year, early next year to build up one on the coast.”

The 100-bed facility will be located in Tradition and could be completed within the next year.

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