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Carmel mayor says city’s elder care facilities must test employees for COVID-19

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — The mayor of Carmel is asking all elder care facilities in the city to test their employees weekly.

Mayor Jim Brainard says failure to do so could amount to reckless homicide charges.

“We don’t want what happened here as what happened in Anderson a few days ago or southern Indiana or Kirkland, Washington,” Brainard said.

Brainard has sent a letter to all nursing homes in the city urging them to test employees weekly for COVID-19.

He suggested it be coordinated by Aria Diagnostics.

“If we can find out who has it and segregate those people, we can slow down the spread. That is so important,” he said.

But several facilities which Brainard declined to name have hesitated, forcing ‘strongly worded’ follow-up emails.

The price for the test is $175.

Brainard even had a police officer hand-deliver a letter to ManorCare Assisted Living at Summer Trace because he said the executive director of the facility did not reply to his email.

“I thought that was so shortsighted because they had the ability to save people’s lives if they just find one staff member that has it,” Brainard said.

The letter even raises the opinion that failure to comply could constitute extreme negligence and even reckless homicide charges.

“I don’t have the ability to order this but I’m in a position of trust and I think it’s part of our job as city officials to try to do everything we can to cut down on the spread of this virus.

ManorCare declined comment on camera, but did release a statement which says in part, “It was never a matter of the center refusing to comply. We needed to assess this new request and compare it with the CDC-approved systems…This facility has chosen…to work with Eli Lilly…We appreciate the mayor’s concern for the citizens of Carmel.”

The full statement is posted at the end of this story.

Meanwhile Carmel is testing its employees weekly who deal with the public every day, including first responders.

While some may think the mayor should stay out of the business of nursing homes and their residents, he disagrees.

“I want to look back and know I was part of the solution.”

Zak Khan, owner of Aria Diagnostics, said his company’s tests do not have the same ‘false negative’ results that occur in the some of the CDC-approved testing for the coronavirus.

He said the cash price for the test is $175, but that Aria is in-network for insurance companies who pay their own agreed-upon amount which varies by the company.

ManorCare released this full statement:

“It was never a matter of the center refusing to comply. We needed to assess this new request and compare it with the CDC-approved systems that were already in place for testing. The facility already had lab services in place, and has chosen to work with Eli Lilly. 

“The health and well-being of our patients is the primary focus of our employees. Prior to the mayor’s request, at the direction of our medical and clinical experts, we had implemented precautions exceeding CDC guidelines to minimize risk to patients and employees, and prevent or contain COVID-19.  This includes regular screening and monitoring of all patients and employees for symptoms of COVID-19, and isolating or quarantining anyone who may be at a higher risk or may have been exposed. 

“We appreciate the mayor’s concern for the citizens of Carmel.  COVID-19 has affected our world and the delivery of healthcare in an unprecedented way.  Most providers in the acute, and post-acute, healthcare system have been impacted by COVID-19.  We are determined to protect the safety and health of our patients and employees to our fullest ability by following all CDC guidelines.

“Our employees are going above and beyond to compassionately care for patients and reassure families during this unprecedented healthcare crisis.  They truly are helpful, caring, and responsive heroes.”