Missouri Veterans Commission provides updated status of COVID-19 cases

Lori Amos
File - St. James Veterans Home pictured. The Missouri Veterans Commission confirmed 24 veterans and nine staff members have active cases of COVID-19 at St. James Veterans Home.

The Missouri Veterans Commission said five of Missouri’s seven veterans homes had reported active cases of COVID-19 among veterans this past month.

Two new veteran cases were reported at one home for the first time Thursday. According to a release from the Missouri Veterans Commission, there have also been active cases among staff members at six of the seven homes.

Here is the latest information the commission released on active COVID-19 cases at Missouri Veterans Homes:

• Cameron Veterans Home – 2 veterans, 2 staff members 

• Cape Girardeau Veterans Home – 57 veterans, 12 staff members

• Mt. Vernon Veterans Home - 27 veterans, 4 staff members 

• St. James Veterans Home -  24 veterans, 9 staff members 

• St. Louis Veterans Home -  2 staff members 

• Warrensburg Veterans Home - 12 veterans, 4 staff members 

The Missouri Veterans Commission said positive cases of COVID-19 were identified during robust COVID-19 testing of veterans and staff. Over the last four months, more than 21,000 tests have been conducted, and in some of the homes, staff and veterans are tested twice per week.

“From the first day that COVID-19 was detected in Missouri, the veterans homes implemented an extensive plan based on best practices to attempt to keep the virus out of our homes and protect our veterans,” Missouri Veterans Commission Executive Director Paul Kirchhoff said in a statement on Friday.

According to Kirchhoff, this has included limiting access, setting up quarantine and isolation areas in advance, extensive use of Personal Protective Equipment and increased cleaning and hygiene measures. 

“We are concerned to see the heroes we care for dealing with this disease  that is so virulent among the elderly and vulnerable populations,” Kirchhoff said.   

Until September, the Missouri Veterans Commission reported one death of a veterans home resident while there was an active COVID-19 case, which was at St. Louis Veterans Home in April 2020. 

The commission said in September, a total of 41 veterans died from COVID-19 at a Missouri Veterans Home while there were known COVID-19 cases among veterans at the home. 

The Missouri Veterans Commission released the following total deaths that were reported at each home while there was a known COVID-19 case among veterans in the home, noting the total number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is not known at this time:

• Cape Girardeau Veterans Home – 21 total deaths reported 

• Mt. Vernon Veterans Home - 7 total deaths reported 

• St. James Veterans Home - 10 total deaths reported 

• Warrensburg Veterans Home - 3 total deaths reported

“In order to combat COVID-19 at our Cape Girardeau and St. James Homes, we have been successful in obtaining additional staffing and resources from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” Kirchhoff said. “Missouri Veterans Commission continues to perform robust testing with our staff and veterans and review our  procedures to help mitigate the risks as much as possible.”  

When the first COVID-19 case was reported in Missouri on March 7, the commission restricted access to visitors, vendors and volunteers at all state veterans homes. The commission implemented training and established infectious disease protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include temperature checks twice a day, and contact interviews with all veterans home employees. 

As testing became more widely available, the Missouri Veterans Commission began sentinel and random COVID-19 testing for both staff and veterans on May 26, according to the commission’s release. 

All Missouri Veterans Commission’s Veterans Homes facilitated no-contact window visits as well as FaceTime social media interactions when access to facilities was restricted. In August, the commission began outdoor visits with family members as conditions permitted. All outdoor visits included a screening process and wearing masks. 

The Missouri Veterans Commission, a division of the Department of Public Safety, operates seven state veterans homes, five state veterans cemeteries and the Veterans Services Program.