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Pine Acres providing hazard pay for select workers amid COVID-19 outbreak

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DeKALB - Employees at Pine Acres Rehab and Living Center were provided an extra $3 per hour as hazard pay during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the facility for the past two weeks, but beginning Friday, only select employees working in the newly-established COVID wing will receive the pay, documents show.

According to documents obtained by the Daily Chronicle, the hazard pay was initially offered to all employees beginning with their June 12 paycheck.

However, a June 25 letter sent to Pine Acres employees from Administrator Steve Jeremias shows that pay was not included in the paycheck expected to arrive Friday, June 26.

And beginning June 26, the hazard pay will soon only be offered to employees working in the facility's west wing, which documents show was recently designated as the COVID unit, the letter states.

"It has come to my attention that the COVID-19 hazard pay was not included on the paychecks being paid June 26," Jeremias stated in the letter. "I apologize for this as I know you were expecting to get this additional pay on this check. I want to let you know that the $3.00/hour additional hazard pay for hourly employees for the past pay period will be paid in the form of a bonus pay on the next check that will be paid July 10."

The longterm care facility has been the center of a COVID-19 outbreak for weeks now, and to date reports the majority of deaths in the county, with 12 deaths, 55 cases in residents and 23 cases in employees.

Pine Acres employees have not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Daily Chronicle, and family members and staff who have reached out to the Chronicle expressed a desire to remain anonymous for fear of retribution to either their jobs or their family members under the facility's care.

In the letter, Jeremias also praised the efforts of facility staff and says Pine Acres is 'getting closer to being a Covid free facility and re-opening our facility again to family members and visitors.'

The latest reported case at the facility was Thursday, in a resident.

"I want to thank all of you for your tireless efforts on behalf of our residents during this pandemic that has unfortunately found its way into our building," Jeremias stated in the letter. "Your hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated and the well being or our residents is a direct outcome of your continued devotion to making Pine Acres the premier healthcare facility that it is."

Two other longterm care facilities reported COVID-19 cases, too. DeKalb County Rehab and Nursing Center reported three employees contracted the virus, and Bethany Rehabilitation & Health Care Centeron Monday announcedtwo employees contracted the virus. No deaths were reported at either facility.

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