CLIFTON, Ill. (WCIA) — An Iroquois County nursing center confirmed Friday over two dozen residents and several staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Molly Gaus, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for Ascension Living — which owns the Merkle-Knipprath nursing center in Clifton — said in an emailed statement Friday they proactively conducted testing for the virus out of an abundance of caution, to ensure the safety of their staff and residents.

According to the Merkle-Knipprath representative, 28 nursing center residents and five staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The health and safety of our residents and associates continues to be our first priority,” Gaus said. “Every action and measure we put in place reflects our commitment to protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications.”

Thanks to the tests, she added, they identified asymptomatic individuals who had the virus. Gaus said it allowed their team to quickly implement additional precautions.

“We compassionately care for 24 residents who are recovering in our community and are thankful for the care and support we are providing to keep them comfortable and safe,” Gaus.

At a Thursday press conference, the Iroquois County Public Health Department (ICPHD) Administrator said six residents of their county who have tested positive for the virus were hospitalized.

Our team is doing a heroic job in providing care and adapting to these unprecedented times as we provide care to all who have underlying medical conditions that have brought them to our community. In the midst of all of these clinical precautions, our focus remains on ensuring our residents and families feel safe and connected during this time. Our team is working as one to provide joy and support during this most unbelievable time. We are thankful for the support of the local community, government officials and our co-workers who continue to help us to provide care and support to those we are privileged to serve.”

Molly Gaus, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for Ascension Living

Gaus also said they have restricted visitations to protect their residents, associates and families, instituted comprehensive screening of all visitors, adopted universal face masking of all associates, and clinical partners, and conducted stringent deep cleaning.

She also said they were maintaining open communications with family members.

“We will continue to implement ways to keep our residents and associates safe while continuing to be the skilled nursing partner our residents and healthcare system need in this most challenging time, including additional testing as it becomes available,” Gaus said.

The ICPHD reported six new cases of the virus Thursday. Out of their 84 reported COVID-19 cases, 22 have recovered and been released from isolation, and 55 remain isolation at home.

On Sunday, the ICPHD reported a woman in her 60s died. She earlier had tested positive for COVID-19.