Number of COVID-19 Cases, Deaths at Marion VA Updated

For more than a month now, we at Channel 27 News have been doing our best to bring you the latest, most accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it is affecting Grant County.

We have tried multiple times to get direct statements from the Marion Veterans Affairs location, but they have been unwilling to give us any official statements. Instead, we’ve had to rely on anonymous sources from the VA who have risked their employment status by reaching out to us.

Nevertheless, following an article we ran on the VA on April 16th, we received significant pushback from people supposedly affiliated with the VA, many of whom told us that there had been zero COVID-19 cases or deaths at the Marion location.

Today we know that these allegations simply aren’t true.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Marion VA location has had 10 confirmed cases and two confirmed deaths, as of 10:44 PM on April 22, 2020.

Also, despite reaching out to the Marion VA repeatedly, we are just now learning that the first case of COVID-19 at the Marion location appeared on April 2, 2020.

We continue to reach out to the Marion VA on a regular basis, in hopes that they will eventually be willing to work with us more directly, in an effort to bring our audience the latest information on what’s happening with our veterans here in Grant County. We invite them to speak with us at any time, as our contact information can easily be found on our Facebook page.

To view the statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, please visit their website at https://www.accesstocare.va.gov/Healthcare/COVID19NationalSummary

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Update, 4/26/20 at 10:00AM

After this article was posted on Thursday, we received a message, almost immediately, from the VA, who, as we explained, we’ve been trying to talk to about the COVID-19 pandemic for about two months now.

The woman who contacted us was the Public Affairs Officer from the VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, Alex Sharpe.

When asked whether or not she would answer our questions, we were told the questions would have to be written and submitted by email and that her answers would need to be approved by people above her within the system.

We received a response on Friday, and for the sake of transparency, here are the questions we asked, along with the approved answers, in their entirety:

Good Afternoon,

VA Northern Indiana Health Care System submits the following responses:

Can you confirm the .va.gov website we cited in our article is a legitimate website?

Yes.

See VA testing and patient case updates here: https://www.va.gov/coronavirus

Will you explain to our audience why you stated that the information is inaccurate?

The COVID-19 case numbers reflect the entire VA Northern Indiana Health Care System not just the Marion facility.

How much testing is being conducted at the Marion Facility?

See VA testing and patient case updates here: https://www.va.gov/coronavirus

As we spoke on the phone, we have been hearing that the Marion Facility has been transferring COVID-19 positive patients to Ft. Wayne. Is this true?

Yes. All COVID-19 Veteran inpatients are housed at the VANIHCS Fort Wayne facility.

If patients are transferred to Ft. Wayne, are those numbers recorded as Ft. Wayne cases or Marion cases?

VA Northern Indiana Health Care System COVID-19 cases can be found under Marion VA Medical Center. The COVID-19 case numbers reflect the entire VA Northern Indiana Health Care System not just the Marion facility. The Northern Indiana Health Care System includes the following facilities:

  • Fort Wayne Campus
  • Marion Campus
  • St. Joseph County VA Health Care Center
  • Peru Community Based Outpatient Clinic  
  • Muncie Community Based Outpatient Clinic 
  • Goshen Community Based Outpatient Clinic 

Has anyone been diagnosed inside the Marion Facility with the COVID-19 virus?

One outpatient Veteran has tested positive for COVID-19 on April 21, 2020 at the VANIHCS Marion facility. The risk of transmission to other patients and staff remains low, as facility was able to discharge the Veteran home based on clinical status with instructions for home isolation and self-care in accordance Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

To date, the VANIHCS Marion facility has had zero cases of COVID-19 in our community living center. We attribute that to the safeguards VA put in place on March 10. See more here: https://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=5400

Has any patient tested negative in the Marion VA, but tested positive shortly after arriving at the Ft. Wayne Facility?

No.

If there are any positive cases in Marion, when was the first case documented?

One outpatient Veteran has tested positive for COVID-19 on April 21, 2020 at the VANIHCS Marion facility. The risk of transmission to other patients and staff remains low, as facility was able to discharge the Veteran home based on clinical status with instructions for home isolation and self-care in accordance Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Which facility are the two deaths on the website coming from?

VANIHCS Fort Wayne Campus.

Were they originally Marion patients?

No.

Will you break down which facilities are the 10 positive cases coming from?

The COVID-19 case numbers reflect the entire VA Northern Indiana Health Care System not just the Marion facility. The Northern Indiana Health Care System includes the following facilities:

  • Fort Wayne Campus
  • Marion Campus
  • St. Joseph County VA Health Care Center
  • Peru Community Based Outpatient Clinic  
  • Muncie Community Based Outpatient Clinic 
  • Goshen Community Based Outpatient Clinic 

After receiving this response, we replied with one follow-up question:

May I have some clarification? In one place it says the patient was sent to Ft. Wayne. In another place it said he was sent home to self quarantine. Are we talking about the same patient or two different patients?

Yes. 
The one Marion outpatient that tested positive was sent home to self quarantine.

While we felt like some of these answers were not completely clear, perhaps purposely, we are still appreciative of the VA reaching out to us and willingly answering our questions, especially since it has taken so long to establish any form of communication with them.

We hope that this is only the start of a cooperative partnership with the VA, including our local VA in Marion. We feel it is important for the community to be informed about what is happening both at our local facility and with our beloved veterans and their well-being.

The process of trying to report on the VA and their response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a stressful one for our entire team, and we thought it was important to address the matter during a live webcast on Facebook, where so many followers are used to getting information from Channel 27 News.

Here is the webcast where we explain our recent reporting on the VA:

Channel 27 News

Tonight we will bring you weather updates, the Governor says Lobby’s are to remain open, Indiana has began Random Coronavirus testing, we have an exclusive interview with the young men who have been paint balling, plus, we have an update on the Northern Indiana Healthcare System.

Posted by Channel 27 News and Entertainment, Grant County on Saturday, April 25, 2020

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