WATERTOWN, Minn. (WCCO) — COVID-19 cases and staffing struggles have caused a Twin Cities assisted-living facility to call on family members to care for their loved ones.

The outbreak in Watertown sent some residents to new addresses. It points to the larger care crisis facing facilities across the state.

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Cindy Clearence, the director of Westwood Place, didn’t expect COVID to finally creep in.

“This has been our first outbreak. We’ve had one positive test this long,” she said.

Nine of their 24 residents, all vaccinated and boosted, tested positive over the holidays. So did nine of their 31 staff members.

Clearence herself is recovering from COVID.

She called it a last resort, but said with so many out sick they had no choice but to have families take in their relatives, who don’t have the virus, for at least the next week.

So far, four residents have left.

“Just to get them home with their loved ones helped to eliminate some of the stress off of them and some of my team members already there,” Clearence said.

Patti Cullen is president of Care Providers of Minnesota.

“It’s not a question of if it’s usually a question of when for this particular variant. If you’re quarantining for five days and all of your other colleagues are quarantining for five days, there is no one left,” Cullen said.

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She is watching this same scenario play out across the state.

Cullen says nursing facilities have more state help, like the National Guard as an option.

In assisted living settings, a temporary move may be all that’s left.

“Any time you move a senior, there’s trauma you don’t want to do that, but you also have to give them services,” Cullen said.

After holiday gatherings, Cullen believes the next few weeks will be most telling on what happens next, as communities like Watertown take it day-by-day to get people the care they need.

“I’m just hoping it will run its course and not be back for a long time,” Clearence said.

None of the COVID cases at Westwood Place is considered to be serious.

Right now 30% of the state’s assisted living facilities are not taking any new residence due to the pandemic.

In long-term care settings, more than 70% are not.

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Liz Collin