Coronavirus stock

Germicidal wipes sit in the supply room at the South Shore Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Rockland, Mass. From Miami to Seattle, nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly are stockpiling masks and thermometers, preparing for staff shortages and screening visitors to protect a particularly vulnerable population from the deadly new coronavirus. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A 73-year-old Port Allen nursing home resident died after contracting the new coronavirus, marking the first death at a care facility in the Baton Rouge area.

The person was a resident at Legacy Nursing and Rehabilitation of Port Allen and died Sunday after being brought to a hospital last week with severe symptoms, according to management and the West Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office. 

Local officials reported the death as the only death in the parish as of Monday.

Legacy Administrator Meagan Landry said in a statement Tuesday no other residents or employees have tested positive or reported symptoms of the virus, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Earlier this month, the facility stopped allowing outside visitors and had been screening employees and residents for signs of the virus. It's a step many elder-living homes across the nation have taken amid worries the virus can spread quickly because residents live in tight quarters and interact with staff closely. 

"This circumstance is unprecedented in our state, nation and the world of healthcare," Landry said. "We have dealt with evacuations and forces of nature but nothing on a global level such as COVID-19."

The respiratory disease caused by the virus, COVID-19, is especially lethal to older adults and those with underlying health conditions, such as heart diseases, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

An outbreak at Lambeth House in New Orleans showed the perils of the virus. As of late Monday, nine residents had died and more than three dozen were sickened at the upscale retirement facility.

The Louisiana Department of Health officials on Monday also reported five new cases at Chateau D'Ville, a retirement home in Donaldsonville, and designated it as the state's second "cluster" along with Lambeth House.

Health officials define a cluster as a group of multiple coronavirus cases that appear connected. The designation triggers increased responses from state and federal agencies. 

Nursing homes have faced some of the worst outbreaks of the deadly virus across the country

Nearly 150 nursing homes in 27 states have at least one resident with COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, according to federal health data shared with U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

Nursing homes across the country have long struggled with lax infection-control practices that can fuel disease outbreaks, prompting the federal government to focus all upcoming inspections on infection prevention.

In Louisiana, more than half of the state's nursing homes were cited for infection-control lapses in the past two years, according to Medicare reports.

At Legacy Nursing and Rehabilitation, federal agents noted several of those violations during a 2019 inspection when they observed staff failing to wash their hands and change gloves, including after employees touched soiled linens and diapers, according to Medicare reports.

Regulators noted in their report the infractions posed minimal harm to residents at the 125-bed facility.

A recent federal report released by FEMA shows Louisiana is among the top three states with confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus reported in nursing homes. The state had between seven and 25 nursing homes reporting patients with the coronavirus or symptoms of the virus, the report said.

State Health officials in Louisiana have declined to release their list of senior care facilities with infected patients.

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Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com, and follow him on Twitter @youssefrddad