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John Knox Nursing Home Currently Experiencing The Biggest COVID-19 Outbreak In Eastern Jackson County

The skilled nursing home has about 225 occupied beds.
Carlos Moreno
The skilled nursing home has about 225 occupied beds.

Despite taking recommended federal precautions to address COVID-19, the skilled nursing facility had a surge in cases, mirroring the surge in metropolitan Kansas City.

Updated: November 19, 2020 at 10:44 AM CST
This story has been updated to include a clarification of the meaning of the term "outbreak."

Thirty residents of the skilled nursing home at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, have died of coronavirus-related causes since the pandemic began about 10 months ago, but most of the deaths have occurred since October.

John Knox Village Care Center is currently reporting 33 active cases and 53 residents who have recovered from the virus.

The facility is licensed for 430 beds but currently has about 225 occupied beds.

The Jackson County Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard is reporting 157 cases at the care center. That figure, however, represents a single outbreak, defined as the number of people who have tested positive before 28 days have passed without any additional cases.

“So if they go 28 days and they don't have another case, that outbreak is then concluded,” said Kayla Parker, spokesperson for the Jackson County Health Department. “If, say, on the 29th day they have a new case, that would start a new outbreak.”

The outbreak at John Knox Village Care Center, and another one at Villages of Jackson Creek, a skilled nursing facility in Independence that has recorded 153 cases, represent the two largest current COVID-19 outbreaks in eastern Jackson County.

Rodney McBride, John Knox’s vice president of health and community services, said the recent spike in deaths there may have originated with a resident who receives daily dialysis treatments outside the facility and was exposed to the virus.

“We’ve been very proactive through this whole time period and I think that, to a large degree, kept us pretty much COVID free until the fall,” McBride said.

The skilled nursing facility, which consists of four different sections, is part of the larger John Knox retirement community, which includes assisted and independent living units and has a total of about 1,500 residents.

McBride said there were five active cases in the assisted living units and four active cases in the independent living units.

The Kansas City area, like much of the rest of the country, is experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases. More than 1,160 cases were reported in the metropolitan area on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total over the course of the pandemic to nearly 69,000. The metro area has a population of about 2.16 million.

Since March, state health officials have conducted eight infection control surveys at John Knox. The surveys are meant to ensure that it has taken actions to protect the health and safety of residents.

In all eight cases, regulators found John Knox was in compliance with federal recommendations on best practices to address COVID-19.

McBride said the facility has taken a variety of steps to ensure resident safety. Residents who test positive are moved into a 19-bed isolation unit. And the facility has installed air scrubbers and ultraviolet lights at the recommendation of an industrial hygienist.

It has also made use of a mobile device, used to disinfect its ambulances, to sanitize patients’ rooms.

And as the test positivity rate has climbed in Jackson County, McBride said it has begun testing workers twice a week, compared to once a week before.

John Knox operates three ambulances, which provide backup services to the city of Lee’s Summit and transport city residents to area hospitals. McBride said John Knox’s emergency director commented recently that fully 8% of those calls had been COVID-related.

“He said he’s been doing this for 30-plus years and never seen those types of numbers, even with cardiac cases and stroke,” McBride said. “You might get to 2% with them, but he said he’s never seen anything close to this.”

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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