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DIERKS, Ark. — Six people tested positive for COVID-19 at a Southwest Arkansas nursing home, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Dierks Health and Rehab had four residents and two employees test positive for the virus as of Sunday night, said Gavin Lesnick, public information director for the ADH.

Nursing home data is updated at 7 p.m. that night and these are current positive cases as of that time, he said.

"Obviously, when we have a positive case those people need to be isolated to prevent the spread from getting into anyone else. We'll go in and conduct more testing with emphasis on anybody who was a close contact to those people," Lesnick said.

That's defined as within six feet of positive cases for at least 15 minutes, he explained. Those people in close contact will be tested and quarantined in case they also have the virus.

"We work very closely with nursing homes all around the state," Lesnick said.

In an emailed statement, Dierks Health & Rehab Administrator Kari Robbins, a registered nurse, declined to comment specifically on the COVID cases.

"I can say that at Dierks Health and Rehab our focus is on taking care of all of our patients, regardless if the diagnosis is COVID-19 or cancer or a toothache. We love our residents and consider it a privilege to serve their needs every day," Robbins said.

In a text message sent to resident family members Friday and obtained by the Gazette, Dierks Health and Rehab stated they continue to follow ADH recommendations about "retesting our staff and residents" and said they would update as they know more.

The text announced that an additional resident had tested positive.

"As mentioned before, per the ADH any resident testing positive is moved to the COVID unit in hopes to prevent additional cases," the text stated.

The nursing home reminded family that they are encouraged to visit loved ones using FaceTime and to arrange a time for a virtual visit.

"As always, thank you for allowing us to take care of your loved ones," the nursing home stated.

Lesnick said when the ADH sees positive cases they conduct tracing to identify where it came from.

"Sometimes as you trace the path of the virus you find new patients that need to be tested. That can help stop the spread going forward," he said, noting that a nursing home, even with the precautions in place and no visitations, is an environment where people come and go so it's possible for the virus to get inside the facility.

According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Dierks Health and Rehab, listed as a long term care facility in Howard County, is licensed for 70 beds.

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