Update Regarding COVID-19 at the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home

The Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs (UDVMA) and Avalon Health Care announced on Saturday that 19 residents of the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home have recovered from COVID-19.

Unfortunately, 13 COVID-19 positive residents have passed away either at the facility, the hospital, or another skilled nursing facility as of June 26. Avalon Health Care and UDVMA are deeply saddened by the passing of these beloved veterans and extend their deepest sympathies and condolences to the residents’ families and friends.

The Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs issued the following statement from executive director Gary Harter:

This pandemic has been extraordinarily challenging and difficult for the residents, families and staff at our four state veterans homes. In particular, our Salt Lake Veterans Home community has been hard hit.

I begin by sharing this news, with the acknowledgment that every loss at the Salt Lake Veterans Home has been a tremendous loss to the residents, Avalon Health Care, our department and the veterans community. We join the families and loved ones who have lost their veterans to COVID-19 in mourning their passing.

However, I do want to celebrate the residents of our Salt Lake Veterans Home who have overcome this virus. Our residents are part of a tight-knit community of fellow veterans and staff, and we are all overjoyed to see these residents recover. We thank the staff who are on the front lines fighting this virus.

Lastly, we know this battle will continue for our department, Avalon Health Care, our residents and their families in the months ahead. It is clear this virus disproportionately affects and harms those most vulnerable among us, particularly residents at long-term care facilities like our veterans homes. 

We will continue to work with our many partners, to include the VA, Department of Health and Utah National Guard, to ensure that our residents are protected and cared for in the best possible manner.

I urge Utahns to continue to follow public health guidelines to help limit the spread of this virus. The best way for Utahns to thank our veterans for their service is to practice social distancing, stay home if you are feeling sick, wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when appropriate. 

Avalon Health Care issued the following statement:

Long term care providers have been on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 since the earliest days of this pandemic. Through the heroic work of dedicated caregivers like those at the Salt Lake Veterans Home, we are working tirelessly to keep one of the most vulnerable populations safe. 

Unfortunately, even after implementing historic safety measures and following all guidance from the CDC and other health officials, we have not been able to save every life. We mourn those who we have lost. Rather than being discouraged, each death strengthens our resolve to overcome this threat. 

While a single lost life is one too many, there is also reason for optimism. This is highlighted by the fact that 19 residents of the Salt Lake Veterans Home have now recovered from COVID-19. This is not only a testament to their strength and bravery, but to the caregivers who continue to stand by their side. 

Though this virus remains a significant threat, these recovery stories provide hope. We will continue to do everything we can to safeguard those in our care and thank our residents and their loved ones for the faith they have placed in us during this challenging time. 

The William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home is owned by the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs and is operated by Avalon Health Care.

The William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home has had a total of 51 residents test positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the outbreak at the facility on May 18. Of those residents, 19 are receiving care at the facility on a dedicated COVID unit, 19 residents have recovered and 13 COVID-19 positive residents have passed away as of June 26. The home has not had any residents test positive for COVID-19 since early June.

The COVID unit is physically separated from the rest of the building and has dedicated staff who only care for those residents on the COVID unit.

By definition, Avalon Health Care and the Utah Department of Veterans & Military Affairs consider an individual recovered from COVID-19 if the test negative for the virus twice.

Regarding staff, a total of 29 Avalon Health Care staff at the home have tested positive for COVID-19 since May 20. As of June 26, 4 employees have recovered from the virus. All staff members are screened before entering the facility and are sent home if they report any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or other illness in accordance with CDC guidelines.

The home has been following the guidance and directives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and Salt Lake County Department of Health and the Utah Department of Health regarding COVID-19 and infection control and prevention.

All Avalon Health Care staff members are screened before entering the facility and are sent home if they report any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or other illness in accordance with CDC guidelines. 

At this time, there are no COVID-19 positive residents at Utah’s other three veterans homes, the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home, Mervyn Sharp Bennion Central Utah Veterans Home and the Southern Utah Veterans Home. All three of those facilities’ employees and residents will be tested as part of the state’s effort to test long-term care facilities. 

For additional updates and information from Avalon Health Care on the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home, please visit avalonhealthcare.com/slveterans/.

For media inquiries, contact Kelsey Price at kelseyprice@utah.gov or (385) 377-0402.

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