National Guard called in to help with Austin nursing home outbreak 

The facility said five National Guard members arrived at Sacred Heart Saturday to assist with resident care.

Minnesota National Guard/Twitter

The National Guard has been called in to help respond to a COVID-19 outbreak at an Austin, Minnesota, nursing home, local news outlets are reporting.

As of Tuesday, the Sacred Heart Care Center has 17 confirmed cases, including 10 residents and seven staff members, according to the nursing home’s website. The facility said it conducted community-wide testing on Oct. 6 and 12.

“The residents who tested positive for COVID-19 are isolated from the rest of our community and being treated by a designated staff team. The staff who have tested positive are quarantined at home and will not be allowed to return to work until they have recovered and passed our return-to-work protocols,” said Sacred Heart.

The facility said five National Guard members arrived at Sacred Heart Saturday to assist with resident care and will remain on site for up to two weeks. ABC 6 News confirmed the report in an article published Monday night.

“We asked the sheriff to reach out to the state EOC (Emergency Operation Center) to see if we could get the National Guard down. They were able to send five guard members. One is an RN and four of them are medical techs,” Mower County Community Health Division Manager Pam Kellogg told the outlet.

In a statement on its website, Sacred Heart dispelled rumors that the National Guard was “taking over” the nursing home or “shutting down” the community.

The facility also revealed that the Minnesota Department of Health visited its campus Monday to “investigate the allegations of neglect,” but was unable to substantiate the claims.

“Residents are being well taken care of and staffing levels are appropriate for the care we need to be providing,” said the facility.

Long-term care facilities continue to account for upwards of 70% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota. On Monday, the state relaxed some restrictions on family visits to nursing homes.

According to the Austin Daily Herald, Sacred Heart plans to conduct weekly COVID-19 testing of all staff and residents, and update its website daily to keep families informed.