HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration laid out plans Wednesday for segregating nursing home residents who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 to help prevent further spread of the disease, while nursing home workers continued to express concerns about not having the equipment and staffing they need to stay safe on the job.
Members of SEIU 1199 New England, the largest health care union in Connecticut, told stories of workers wearing garbage bags for protection and reusing gear that normally would be tossed after a single use. Of the 69 homes staffed with District 1199 workers, 55 have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight have suspected cases.
“We are reusing masks. Some of us have limited access to gloves. We don’t have access to gowns,” said Chelsea Daniels, an LPN at Fresh River Healthcare in East Windsor, a 144-bed skilled nursing facility. “We are at risk and nobody seems to care.”
Josh Geballe, Lamont’s COO, said the supply chain for personal protective equipment has been disrupted but the state expects to see “a significant influx of PPE” in the coming days and weeks “that will alleviate the challenges we’ve been facing over the last couple of weeks.”
Barbara Cass, chief of health care quality and safety at the state Department of Public Health, said her agency has a call each morning with nursing homes and has been responding to reports of shortages. She said they’ve also opened up “messaging systems” to hear directly from front-line workers.
Meanwhile, in an effort to build nursing home capacity, Lamont announced Wednesday evening that “recovery centers” will be opened in Torrington, Bridgeport, Meriden and Sharon. The facilities, which will provide a total of more than 500 beds for COVID-19 patients, will receive $600 per-day per-patient, in addition to the planned 10% increase across the board for all nursing homes.
Since Tuesday, an additional 1,000 Connecticut residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 8,781. Approximately 1,418 patients have been hospitalized and there have been COVID-19 associated fatalities is 335.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
The chief medical examiner’s office is investigating several deaths at a Milford nursing home and rehabilitation center, after changing the cause of death for one resident to having likely been linked to COVID-19.
The initial cause of death for Jean Auclair at Golden Hill Rehabilitation Pavilion was respiratory failure, with no mention of COVID-19, officials said. More than 40 residents at the 120-bed care center have tested positive for the disease.
Dr. James Gill, the chief medical examiner, said Wednesday his office changed the cause of death to “acute respiratory infection due to probable” coronavirus infection.
It’s not clear how many residents at the facility have died from COVID-19. Gill said Golden Hill staff have certified some deaths as being related to the disease, and the medical examiner’s office is investigating other deaths.
The state Department of Public Health also is investigating several pneumonia deaths, staffing levels and other issues at Golden Hill, state officials said.
Andrew Wildman, executive director at Golden Hill, told Hearst Connecticut Media in an email that complaints about staffing levels and the health of employees were “false rumors” and there is adequate staff to meet residents’ needs. He did not say how many residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.