Due to the high density of people and the rapid spread of the virus, facilities such as nursing homes or monasteries often become the hardest hit areas of the epidemic in the United States. On December 17th local time, the Associated Press reported another tragedy: a large-scale COVID-19 infection occurred in a monastery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has killed eight nuns since the 9th, four of whom died on the same day.
The monastery where the accident happened is managed by a religious education organization called the School of Sisters of Notre Dame, in which more than 100 nuns live in the building. The monastery has not been “smaught” in the past few months, but on Thanksgiving Day, one of the nuns in the monastery tested positive for the virus.
Debra Sciano, the manager of the facility, told the American media that they immediately implemented epidemic prevention measures such as social distancing restrictions immediately after the outbreak was discovered, but many people had been confirmed to be infected. To avoid the spread of the epidemic, they separated the nuns who tested positive for the virus from others and isolated them in one area.
In less than a week from the 9th to the 14th, eight nuns in the monastery have died of COVID-19, four of whom died on the 14th. According to Shiano, all the dead were educators, most of them over 80 years old. However, she refused to disclose the exact number of people in the facility who tested positive on the grounds of personal privacy
Recently, after the Pfizer vaccine was urgently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, the first batch of vaccines have been shipped to all parts of the United States for medical staff, high-risk groups and other vaccination. Shiainault said she did not know if anyone in the monastery could prioritize vaccinations, and administrators were trying to contact the local pharmacy to prepare for future vaccinations.
Linda Wickstrom, a spokesman for the local health department, said that they have actively cooperated with county hospitals since the abbey contacted the county health department about the epidemic.
Wickström said that the “Notre Dame Nuns School” to which the monastery belongs has issued a statement that their monasteries have begun to disinfect the surface of objects in close contact with personnel, encouraging personnel to wash their hands, maintain social distancing and wear masks. At present, the monastery where the incident happened in Milwaukee has been closed to visitors.
The Associated Press noted that in recent months, there have been several large-scale infections in similar religious facilities in the United States. In July this year, a large-scale infection occurred in a monastery in Greenfield, Wisconsin, killing at least six nuns. In Detroit and New York, two monasteries also experienced outbreaks in July, killing 13 and 7 nuns respectively.
The characteristics of such facilities’ concentration of personnel make them vulnerable to large-scale infections. According to the report, the residents of monasteries and nursing homes in the United States are not only extremely densely populated, but also mainly elderly residents. Among them, nursing homes have become one of the deadliest facilities in the United States due to the coronavirus epidemic. Similar examples occur in Europe, such as 76 nuns tested for COVID-19 in a monastery in northwest Germany in early December.
In its report, the Associated Press once again warned the American people that the incident was a cruel reminder that even if some precautions were taken, the virus spread in dense crowds at an unexpected rate.