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The novel coronavirus has reportedly claimed the lives of five nuns at a Wisconsin convent.
Since April 6, five nuns have died at The Lady of the Angels Convent, which specializes in serving those with dementia, according to a report from The New York Times. The nuns had settled at the Wisconsin convent after decades of services around the Midwest.
It was only discovered the five nuns were COVID-19 positive after they had died. At least four staff members have also tested positive.
Though Our Lady of the Angels kept in close contact with the local health department, the sisters’ primary care physician and the facility’s infection control coordinator, the virus seeped through the convent with “particular invisibility,” the report noted.
The facility, which stopped allowing visitors in early April and kept any positive cases in isolation, temporarily halted testing its residents that same month, according to the Milwaukee County medical examiner’s investigative reports, as cited by The New York Times. Facility staff had explained the testing was too difficult for the frail nuns to endure.
Sister Mary Regine Collins, for instance, was nearly 96 years old with dementia and was “too combative to tolerate” tests for coronavirus, which involve a long nasal swab to the back of the throat. She died from the virus on April 6 after falling ill a few days prior.
Sister Marie June Skender, 83, died on April 7, and tested positive in a post-mortem exam.
“Once a virus like this comes into the facility — the facility has done a great job isolating patients, keeping patients in their rooms and to the extent, they can bring food to the rooms,” Darren Rausch, health officer and director at the Greenfield Health Department, told Fox 6 Now. “We facilitated some PPE requests earlier in the week — and we are told they have what they need.”
Testing ramped up again this week over outbreak concerns at the convent, according to The New York Times.
“The convent administrator and staff have been following, and continue to follow, all the guidelines and recommendations of the local health department, the facility’s infection control coordinator, and the sisters’ primary care physician,” Michael O’Loughlin, a spokesman for the School Sisters of St. Francis, a co-sponsor of the convent, told the newspaper.
“They are very aware that the convent’s residents, who are elderly and receive specialized memory care, are a vulnerable population, which is why the convent suspended all communal activities and enforced social distancing long before any of the residents tested positive for COVID-19,” he added.
Since testing has resumed, all residents have been tested, some more than once, O’Loughlin said.
Other nuns who fell victim to the disease are sisters Bernadette Kelter, Annelda Holtkamp, and Macy Francele Sherburne.
Holtkamp, who was 102, was the resident’s fourth fatality and died April 19, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office. Holtkamp had ministered for 77 years, and was a resident at Our Lady of Angels since 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“For many weeks, Our Lady of the Angels has been working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Milwaukee County Health Department, infection control specialists and the Greenfield Health Department for months to protect our sisters and staff against COVID-19; and once the presence of the virus was identified, to prevent further spread,” Jane Morgan, administrator at Our Lady of the Angels Covent, said in a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. “We welcome prayers for the health and comfort of our residents and staff as we grieve the loss of our sister.”
There have been 6,854 positive cases in Wisconsin with at least 316 deaths, according to the Wisconsin Health Department.