Surviving COVID: Jasper General Nursing Home residents finally able to get out

Jasper General Nursing Home resident Dot King waves as she takes a leave with her daughter, Dean Morris, while being escorted out by nurse Kayla Carey.

It has been just over a year and couple weeks ago since COVID-19 really started to rear its ugly face in Jasper County. Although infection rates were not severely high at that particular time in the county, Jasper General Nursing Home had to go ahead and put up its guard for its residents’ safety, locking the facility down.

It was a well-played hand, considering a dangerous and only weeks into the future heavy outbreak of the virus in the county and state. Now, after over 365 days, the staff and residents have received some news they have eagerly been awaiting for some time. Residents are finally able to get out of the nursing home doors and visit with their family and friends.

According to Jasper General Nursing Home Administrator Becky Ulmer, the nursing home locked down on March 12, 2020. It, last week, received word from the State Department of Health that its residents could leave the facility on “normal” excursions with their families, which is up to 14 days. Residents began being able to venture outside the facility with their family on March 31, 2021.

“It’s been a team effort. Most everybody here (staff) bought in,” Ulmer explained about the COVID situation and leading up to the day residents could finally in a real sense somewhat get back to normal. “They (the residents) are very excited. This is a day and time we’ve been looking for, and it’s great for our residents and families.”

According to Ulmer, residents that have been fully vaccinated with one-of-three of the current COVID vaccines and have completed post vaccination time can now leave the facility with family members on leave of absence.

During the entire height of the pandemic and until now, Ulmer relayed only 18 residents of the nursing home were infected with COVID-19, and none of those cases were severe.

“We haven’t had a case since December 31,” she explained. “None had to have oxygen and none died with COVID.”

Even though the nursing home has faired quite well during the pandemic, Ulmer explained the situation has been a struggle from holding on to care employees to being able to purchase personal protective gear that has all-but sky rocketed in price since the pandemic began.

“Once, we were able to buy masks at $3 a box. Now, we are looking at $14 to $16 a box,” she mentioned. “But, we do what we have to do.”

However, throughout the entire ordeal, many of the residents and caring staff looking over them have held steadfast to the day it might get back to “normal.” Or somewhat. The nursing home, during the year, had set up various ways for residents to communicate with family and friends, but nothing has beat that one-on-one feeling of touch many residents are now being able to experience.

Tuesday afternoon, resident Dot King was able to experience an outside venture with her daughter, Dean Morris. Needless to say, there were many smiles as they exited the nursing home doors.