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To date more than 4,000 cards and letters have been received by veterans through the Project Love initiative.

JENNINGS — The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs is dealing with multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 among residents and staff at the state's five state-run veterans homes.

Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs Director of Communications Brandee Patrick said a total of 190 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 since April at veterans homes in Jennings, Bossier City, Monroe and Reserve.

"We are grateful to report that we have no residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 at our Jackson veterans home," Patrick said.

A total of 117 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at all five veterans homes during the pandemic. Of those, 105 have recovered and are back at work, she said.

"As we have done from the very beginning of this COVID-19 event, we continue to follow all updated Centers for Disease Control, Louisiana Department of Health and Office of Public Health medical protocols for delivering care at all our veterans homes," Patrick said.

Since March 12, the homes' staff have been rigorously medically screened upon entry to the homes before every shift, using a screening checklist. The checklist includes taking the staff member's temperature and asking a series of questions testing for all updated COVID-19 symptoms. If a staff member does not pass the screening, he or she is asked to leave and to see a doctor.

In addition to the screening, the homes began conducting weekly employee testing as soon as such tests were made available through the Louisiana Department of Health.

"We are in our eighth week of employee testing and have tested all veterans again for an additional two weeks each time we have had one or more employee test positive," Patrick said.

Families of residents are updated individually as any status changes occur with their particular loved one, she said. Calls are also made to all families every few days or weekly to update them on the overall status of their particular home.

"At any time, families may call the home to receive updates on their loved one or the overall status of the home," she said.

The homes are also making concerted efforts to provide regular electronic FaceTime calls at a time convenient for the family contact listed for each veteran, she said.

"These have made a big difference in allowing family members to talk to their loved one and see their faces, while a staff member helps to facilitate these calls," Patrick said.

Patrick said activities and social service staff are also getting "very creative" to engage the residents while making sure everyone is wearing the appropriate personal protective gear and social distancing. Activities have included doorway Bingo, indoor fishing and trivia.

"We also have our Project Love initiative that is ongoing throughout this summer, so we continue to encourage Louisianans to write letters to our veterans," she said.

To date more than 4,000 cards and letters have been received by veterans.

"The veterans are truly moved and happy that someone cares," she said. "And we want to express our continued gratitude to our veterans' families and the communities surrounding the homes for their ongoing support for our homes and our staff."

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