GROVE, Okla. — A team of specially trained Oklahoma National Guard members will help officials at a Grove nursing home where 13 people have died disinfect and deep clean the building.

On Thursday, members of the 10-person team will arrive at Grove Nursing Center. The long-term care and rehabilitation center has been the epicenter of coronavirus cases in Delaware County.

As of May 1, the center’s numbers totaled 78 cases, 50 of which were residents and 28 of which were employees.

Thirteen residents have died, most in the highest risk category of 65 years and older.

Delaware County has reported a total of 13 deaths and 90 cases. Delaware ranks sixth among Oklahoma counties in number of COVID-19 deaths, and eighth in numbers of cases, although it is not part of any of the metropolitan areas. 

James Thompson, health planning coordinator for District 4 within the Oklahoma Department of Health, said National Guardsmen began their cleaning efforts by targeting long-term care homes with a high number of positive cases.

Thompson said the unit uses a spray designed to limit the spread of the virus for up to six months.

Eisen Shelton, Grove Nursing Home administrator, compares the cleaning process to ones completed in Georgia nursing homes. He said the National Guard unit will use deep sanitizing practices specifically in the common areas.

“They are helping out and just being awesome,” Shelton said. “They are doing the work like our housekeepers do but on a larger scale.”

Shelton said that as of Friday, the center has 29 active COVID-19 cases. While those cases are treated as positive, Shelton said not every resident or staff member is sick.

He also said it takes two negative tests before a person is considered a nonactive case. A retesting process is underway, which Shelton said should be completed in the next week.

He called the pandemic “uncharted waters” for the center, adding that his staff is working hard to combat the virus.

The first positive case at the center was registered in early April. A large number of the positive cases came during Easter weekend, after all staff and residents were tested on April 10.

Statewide testing

In another effort to get accurate COVID-19 information regarding long-term care and nursing homes, officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health are beginning to test every long-term care resident and staff member in the state. The goal is to have everyone tested by the end of May using a saliva-based test.

As of now, Grove Nursing Center, like other long-term care/nursing homes in Oklahoma, remains closed to the public. Thompson said the closures will remain in effect as the state goes through the various phases of reopening.

Thompson said he hopes people will “not throw caution to the wind” and remember to limit contact, uphold social distancing and follow guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If you aren’t doing it for yourself, do it for those who are at risk,” Thompson said, adding a caution about the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend. “Mothers can be at higher risk because of their age or health conditions/factors.”

Mother's Day is Sunday, May 10.