9 virus cases found at nursing home as part of test program to catch outbreaks

3 staff and 6 residents found to carry pathogen at Or Yehuda assisted living facility as part of random testing scheme; one person hospitalized, remainder are asymptomatic

Magen David Adom medical workers test Israelis at a drive-through site in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Magen David Adom medical workers test Israelis at a drive-through site in Jerusalem on May 31, 2020 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Nine cases of the coronavirus have been diagnosed among residents and staff at an assisted living facility in central Israel, it was announced Saturday.

The first case at the Ahuzat Eyal nursing home was found at the start of the week as part of a program to randomly test staff and residents of elder care facilities in an attempt to get ahead of possible outbreaks, Hebrew media reported.

After the first case was discovered, staff and residents of the home were tested and no further cases were found. However, they were re-tested on Thursday and six residents and a further two workers were diagnosed with the virus.

One person has been hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center and the remainder were said not to be showing symptoms.

Magen David Adom medical workers test residents of South Tel Aviv on June 02, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The discovery came just over a week after the Health Ministry’s outgoing Director-General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov called on Israelis to refrain from visiting their grandparents, saying it was better to speak with them by videoconferencing apps.

At the height of the outbreak, the novel coronavirus spread quickly in nursing homes around the country, where it was responsible for around a third of the national death toll.

The Health Ministry on Saturday morning reported 144 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, continuing the recent trend of rising infections.

One person died of COVID-19, taking the national death toll to 292. There were no details given on the identity of the fatality.

There have been 17,706 infections recorded in Israel since the start of the pandemic.

Among those who were sick, 29 were in serious condition, 23 of whom were on ventilators. Another 36 were in moderate condition and the rest had mild symptoms.

The Health Ministry also said 16,133 tests were carried on Friday, which the Ynet news site said was the highest daily total of the pandemic so far.

An official from the ministry said Tuesday that Israel now has the capacity to carry out up to 40,000 tests per day after new deals were signed with two testing labs.

As the number of new cases rose on Friday, the number of schools shuttered due to students contracting the virus also went up.

According to the Education Ministry, 92 schools and daycares have now been closed to stem the spread of the virus, up from 87 Thursday evening.

Cleaning workers disinfect a classroom at the Gymnasia Rehavia high school in Jerusalem on June 3, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The ministry said 304 students and teachers have tested positive for COVID-19 during the fresh outbreak, with another 13,702 people in quarantine because of potential exposure to the virus.

The latest closures came two days after the government said it would leave schools open but use targeted closures anywhere a coronavirus case is found to help stem the recent spike in infections. Though classes resumed after two months of closures, students and teachers are required to wear face masks and are supposed to keep to strict hygiene practices.

The Health Ministry, which has reportedly been pushing to reintroduce a nationwide closure of schools, says the rising number of infections among students is the primary factor in Israel’s recent spike in cases.

The jump in new cases came after the daily infection rate steadily dropped through much of May, with Israel easing restrictions on movement, economic activity and gatherings that were put in place to contain the virus.

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