Half a dozen residents at a local long-term care facility have died due to a recent COVID-19 outbreak, local health officials said, marking the first major outbreak in a nursing home for months.

The deaths at the facility all come within the last few weeks, Dr. Emily Backer, Howard County health officer, said Monday night during a county health board meeting.

A total of 19 staff and residents at the long-term care facility tested positive within the past few weeks, local health officials said. Of the 19, just a handful were vaccinated against COVID-19, Backer said, with one of the reported deaths being a vaccinated individual.

“It is concerning, obviously, because I think a lot of us just assume everyone at a nursing home has got their vaccine,” Backer said, adding that the rate of staff inoculation at the facility was only around 35%.

As of late June, 79% of nursing home residents throughout the state were vaccinated, but only 49% of nursing home staff were vaccinated, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Local health officials declined to say which local long-term care facility experienced the recent outbreak.

Century Villa Health Care and Rehabilitation, located at 705 N. Meridian St. in Greentown, is the only facility in the county to report to the state multiple new positive COVID cases and deaths in the last several weeks, according to the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. A public relations representative for Exceptional Living Centers, the owner of Century Villa, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The outbreak at the facility is one of four recent outbreaks at long-term care facilities across the state, according to the ISDH. The others have occurred in Fulton, Allen and Gibson counties.

Notably, the B.1.1.7 variant, commonly known as the Alpha variant that originated in the United Kingdom, was found in some of the reported positive cases at the local long-term care facility.

The more transmissible Alpha and Delta COVID variants are becoming more prevalent in Indiana, state health officials said last week. As such, both state and local health officials said the recent outbreak shows the need for those unvaccinated to receive an inoculation from one of the vaccines, which research so far has shown to still be highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death in those who tested positive for one of the variants.

“Get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated,” Backer said.

COVID-19 variants by the numbers

The county has reported 41 total variant cases, according to Jennifer Sexton, director of nursing for the Howard County Health Department. Most of those are the Alpha variant, with fewer than five being the Delta variant, she said.

Additionally, the county has seen 55 breakthrough cases — where a vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19 — as of July 9.

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