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Groton nursing home struggling with COVID-19 outbreak

Groton — The Fairview Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Care Center is continuing to struggle with an outbreak of COVID-19 among residents and staff.

Since mid-September, the 120-bed nursing home at 235 Lestertown Road has had a total of 52 residents and 17 staff members test positive for COVID-19, said Fairview Executive Director Billy Nelson. Two residents who tested positive have died.

As of Tuesday, of the 88 residents now at the facility, 33 have tested positive for COVID-19, and three are hospitalized at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. Fourteen residents have recovered and moved out of a unit designated for COVID patients. Thirteen staff members have recovered and four have active cases of the coronavirus.

The state Department of Public Health inspected the facility on Saturday and found no deficiencies in its infection control procedures, according to Nelson. The inspectors approved the cohorting, or grouping strategy Fairview is using in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, he said.

"We have no greater priority than the health and safety of our residents right now," Nelson said.

Fairview had been COVID-free from the beginning of the pandemic until mid-September, when Nelson said an asymptomatic staff member introduced the virus into the facility.

"The majority of our COVID positive residents have been able to experience a full recovery, and we do expect the majority of them to have full recoveries," Nelson said. "However, we're extremely sorry for the two deaths we've had thus far."

All family visitation has been suspended at Fairview because of the outbreak, and only essential healthcare workers are allowed access. Nelson said Fairview has stockpiled plenty of personal protective equipment.

Residents in the COVID unit are receiving Vitamin D, Zinc sulfate, increased monitoring of vital signs, laboratory results and diagnostic tests. The medical director is adding steroids and anti-coagulant therapy to the treatment regimen when appropriate. Protein nourishment shakes are being provided to residents and the staff dietician is closely monitoring their nutritional intake, he said.

"We've been very fortunate that the majority of our residents have not had anything more than mild to moderate symptoms," he said. "Our families have been very supportive, which all of our staff greatly appreciates. We're trying to keep morale up as we battle through this virus, and the staff are to be commended because they're showing a no quit mentality."

Residents are being tested every two to three days, or immediately upon showing symptoms, and the facility has an antigen testing machine on site to identify a positive result quickly.

Fairview's staff members are being tested weekly via the PCR testing method, in which swab samples, usually from the nose, are sent to a laboratory which analyzes them to detect the presence of the virus. Nelson said test swabs are sent to a Yale New Haven Health lab to be read, and results take from 24 to 48 hours.

If a staff member developed symptoms while at work, the facility would use the antigen test on them for immediate results, Nelson said.

"We continue to have staff test positive on occasion," Nelson said. "The prevalence of COVID-19 in southeastern Connecticut is on the rise, so our staff are exposed to it outside in the community."

Nursing home deaths from COVID-related illnesses had accounted for 74 percent of Connecticut's deaths as of July 30, according to an independent review of the state's nursing home performance released last month by Mathematica Inc. The cases within the community and in nursing homes had subsided until recently.

On Tuesday, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), representing more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year, released a report showing rising cases in nursing homes corresponding with community spread.

k.florin@theday.com

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