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Grand Traverse Pavilions is a county-owned nursing home near South Elmwood Avenue in Traverse City.

TRAVERSE CITY — Five deaths at the Grand Traverse Pavilions have been attributed to a COVID-19 outbreak at the county-owned, long-term care facility, according to officials.

Since the Nov. 5 outbreak started, 34 residents and 12 staff members tested positive for the virus, said Rose Coleman, interim CEO/administrator. Of those, five died, 23 are fully recovered and moved back to their rooms and six remain in a COVID-19 unit at the facility.

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It is the first outbreak the facility experienced since the beginning of the pandemic 20 months ago, said Coleman, who gave an update on the outbreak at Monday’s Grand Traverse Board of Commissioners meeting. The infected residents were fully vaccinated and 80 percent of the staff was vaccinated, she said.

Coleman said the outbreak has been traced to three possible sources: One is a resident who is in and out of the hospital where there are a large number of COVID-19 cases. Another is a family member who did not adhere to infection control practices with masking and social distancing, while the third is a vaccinated staff member who contracted the virus, she said.

Because all who contracted COVID were fully vaccinated, genotyping found they were dealing with a strain of delta variant that “appears to be resistant to the vaccine we currently have,” Coleman said.

Multiple studies now show the effectiveness of the vaccine begins to wane after five to six months; those in nursing homes were among the first to be inoculated.

About two-thirds of residents have now had their booster, which takes about two weeks to give full immunity.

“We’re very hopeful we’re at the tail end of that,” Coleman said. “Unfortunately the COVID wave hit us right as we were giving those boosters.”

A majority of infected residents were given monoclonal antibody therapy, which she said has been very effective.

The Pavilions lost about 10 percent of its staff who declined to get vaccinated under a federal mandate that requires workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated. Nationally about 17 million workers are affected by the mandate.

As of Monday, 91 percent of Pavilions staff and 99.3 percent of residents were fully vaccinated, she said. The deadline to get vaccinated is Dec. 5.

Deb Allen, chief development and community engagement officer, said there have been several resignations from those who put their two-week notice in ahead of the deadline.

“We anticipate there are quite a few that are making up their minds this week,” Allen said.

Allen said several employees asked for exemptions based on medical or religious reasons. Those are still under review.

The Pavilions is advertising for certified nurse aides, with full-time positions starting at $18 per hour, plus a differential for evening, night and weekend shifts. Applicants must be state certified.

Munson Healthcare announced in September that all employees, providers and contract workers must be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. About 8 percent of employees asked for medical or religious exemptions that have been approved or are pending, according to spokesman Brian Lawson. Employees originally had until Nov. 15 to request an exemption, but the date was extended to Dec. 5.

With six days remaining before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine requirement takes effect, just under 93 percent of employees are compliant, Lawson said. Since Nov. 1 Munson has seen an average weekly increase of 4.6 percent who are vaccinated or have approved exemptions.

Munson scheduled 15 staff vaccine clinics across the system this week.

“Given the consistent increase we’ve seen over the last several weeks and the response other hospitals across the state have experienced, Munson Healthcare anticipates the vast majority of staff will meet the CMS requirement and stands poised with staffing contingency plans for those who do not meet the requirement by Dec. 5,” Lawson said in an email statement.

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