Loretta O'Brien and family
How nursing homes are dealing with coronavirus pandemic
04:10 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Two Oregon nursing homes sit less than 20 miles apart: one is the site of a major coronavirus outbreak, the other has seen no cases at all.

The difference may come down to the foresight and strict measures implemented by the Laurelhurst House, a long-term care facility in Portland.

Nearby, Healthcare at Foster Creek has seen at least 117 cases and 28 deaths as of last week, according to an Oregon Department of Human Services order obtained by CNN affiliate KATU. The DHS has suspended the facility’s license, the order said.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has presented enormous challenges for nursing facilities around the country,” the facility told CNN in a statement responding to the DHS order. “We are heartbroken and understand the serious nature of the state’s concerns. As a provider of care for some of the state’s most vulnerable, we are committed to improving our processes and policies and continuing to provide critical care for Medicaid patients.”

Healthcare at Foster Creek is one of many nursing homes across the nation overwhelmed by the spread of the virus to their vulnerable residents living in close quarters.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for Covid-19,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said last month.

Laurelhurst House Executive Director Jenny Abeling said they were prepared for the coronavirus outbreak even before it came to the United States.

“We had foresight, so we were following the news and saw these outbreaks in other countries happening and we knew we were not going to be able to avoid this,” Abeling told CNN’s Erin Burnett Tuesday on “Erin Burnett Out Front.”

So before any government agency imposed restrictions on nursing homes, the Laurelhurst House began stockpiling personal protective equipment, disinfecting items coming in and limiting how many staff members each resident had contact with, Abeling said.

The facility is still hoping to get testing for residents and staff. Until then, they have asked employees to avoid working at other facilities and to implement strict social distancing measures in their personal lives to avoid bringing the virus into the facility, Abeling said. Though the measures have shown success, Abeling said she knows other facilities were facing extreme difficulties as well.

“What we did is something that is individual to our community, and I hope that as we move forward, we’re going to collaborate with other communities and we are going to put our minds together to make sure that another pandemic doesn’t happen like this at long-term care facilities,” Abeling said.

CNN’s Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.