All it takes is one person participating in a single crowded event to start an outbreak. Case in point: The Illinois Health Department was able to track an uptick in COVID-19 cases in a rural community to an indoor event at a local bar. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) from a long-term care community attended; not only did this person contract COVID but likely spread it to others, including residents in the nursing home where the CNA worked.

That event reinforces this week’s message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to senior care that the spread of COVID-19 is still high. “We know people are eager to return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. Vaccines are bringing us closer, but we’re not there yet,” said Mary Good, PhD, of the CDC’s Community Intervention–Critical Populations Task Force.

Based on current COVID-19 cases, the CDC said that its guidance for frail and vulnerable populations remains unchanged. The CDC stands committed that its recommendations remain enforced, including masking, social distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding medium to large gatherings.

The CDC stressed avoiding large gatherings that bring together multiple households because of the increased possibility of virus transmission. In the Illinois case, the CNA tested positive for COVID four days after the event at the bar, even though asymptomatic.  When all residents and staff at the facility were subsequently tested, secondary cases were found in one staff member and two residents who had close contact with the person.

One of the nursing home residents who was in contact with the COVID-positive CNA and got infected was hospitalized but discharged the same day. All staffers and residents who got sick had previously been offered the COVID-19 vaccine, but had not been vaccinated.

This situation exemplifies the current challenges faced by public health officials and business owners attempting to keep people safe and prevent the spread of COVID. It also stresses the importance of healthcare workers to practice safe, responsible behavior even when they are off the clock.

For more information on the CDCs updated recommendations for senior care communities, click here. For a summary of the latest recommendations for long-term care facilities, click here.