Jasper County coronavirus cases reached 42 earlier this week with dozens of infections and three deaths among Newton Care Center residents and employees.

Jasper County Health Department reported a third coronavirus death, a woman in her 80s, over the weekend. Two other elderly women, both Newton Care Center residents have died from the virus. There were 42 people testing positive for COVID-19, including more than two dozen nursing home residents, ranging in age from the 60s to their 90s, and up to 15 Care Center employees, based on figures released by Jasper County Health Department.

Contact in late March between a resident and a person, outside the facility, not showing coronavirus symptoms led to the disease spreading in the nursing home, located on the east side of Newton. This has produced up to 173 COVID-19 tests in the county (including some individuals being retested) producing 125 negative results as of Sunday, April 26. There were still five tests pending, and one person had recovered, while another was hospitalized for treatment.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure we stop the spread of COVID-19 within our facility,” stated Holly Morris, vice president with Ide Management Group in a news release last week. “Despite our aggressive efforts, our first case occurred as a result of contact between a resident and an asymptomatic person, outside of the facility, in March. Upon return, we screened the resident, who showed no symptoms for several days, and we followed all then existing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and local and state departments of health. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus is very contagious, particularly among those vulnerable due to other health conditions.”

Morris explained since the virus entered the facility, testing and other resources have become more readily available, and the CDC and health departments have updated their guidance. Ide Management Group is a company that provides skilled nursing care and manages many assisted living facilities like the one in Newton.

“Our infection control protocol has evolved, and we expect it to continue to evolve,” Morris wrote. “We will not be taking any new admissions of residents at this time as our focus is on caring for and serving the current residents in our facility, which is also their home.”

The sudden increase in COVID-19 cases at the facility has shaken the community. People are offering food and other support as well as prayers. Newton Care Center has sought certified nursing assistants since so many staff members have been stricken by the disease.

Several Jasper County ministers offered prayers last week at a local church and more than 300 people tuned into an electronic link to the prayer service for the sick, Care Center staff and families of those infected.

“We appreciate the continued support and assistance of the Jasper County Health Department and the Illinois State Department of Health. The Jasper County Health Department has been there for us, even on nights and weekends. Wear are beyond grateful to our dedicated staff and the support, care and understanding from our families and local community in this very difficult time,” Morris concluded