18 total Monroe County nursing home COVID-19 deaths, including 8 at St. John’s nursing home in Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As of Friday afternoon, eight people at St. John’s nursing home had lost their lives to COVID-19. In nursing homes across Monroe County, the reported total was 18.

St. John’s was the only Rochester-area nursing home to appear on the New York State Department of Health’s database of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19.

This database only tracks nursing homes with five or more COVID-19 fatalities, according to state officials.

Statement from St. John’s

Over time, we have witnessed the harsh reality that COVID-19 impacts the elderly population most vehemently. The terrifying truth is that nursing homes cannot implement the single most effective solution to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is to require social distancing between all staff and our most vulnerable residents. The general public can be safe at home, stopping the virus from asymptomatic spread. This has flattened the curve where it has been successfully enacted. Social and physical distancing is in direct opposition to the delivery of critical care. To help someone sit up who has no strength, to brush someone’s teeth who has forgotten how to do so, to bring food to someone’s mouth on a spoon who cannot self-feed, to hold someone up who can no longer walk unassisted–is care that cannot be provided from six feet away. 

As we currently face the existence of COVID-19 at St. John’s, deployment of personal protective equipment has been and remains our most significant countermeasure. We have added the additional precaution, ahead of Department of Health recommendations, to mandate that face shields be worn by all staff members physically located on any resident neighborhood. While we maintain sufficient inventories of the critical supplies we need, we have also been exploring new avenues for obtaining necessary inventory, including innovative business partnerships, donations, and volunteer efforts.

We have also implemented a plan to isolate all COVID-19 positive residents to two of 13 neighborhoods for the increased safety and care of all residents at St. John’s. These isolated neighborhoods are fully staffed with round-the-clock, dedicated teams implementing the highest level of personal protective equipment including gloves, gowns, masks, and face shields.

Overall, we advocate for the people behind the tallies. Each person is an individual whose family is facing grief, worry, stress, and uncertainty. We extend our thoughts and prayers to all families facing COVID-19, including our own staff members that have been directly impacted.

Specific to addressing the question of countermeasures, our published FAQ below speaks to this directly:

What specific steps have been taken to protect the residents at St. John’s?

We have many safeguards in place to protect and preserve the health, safety, and quality of life for our residents and staff members.

The following measures listed below have specifically been taken in accordance with guidelines provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:

·         Convened a team of in-house physicians, nurses, and care providers to monitor the spread of COVID-19 and ensure implementation of the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control best practices. This COVID-19 task force meets multiple times daily to review current conditions and make recommendations for triage.

·         Ensured continued adherence to infection prevention protocols and health care practices followed throughout the year, including hand washing, use of gloves and other personal protective equipment as required.

·         Continued staff education on infection control and mitigating virus spread.

·         Led by our experienced environmental services team, coordinated extensive and frequent cleanings of resident rooms, common areas, and facilities.

·         Introduced a new ultraviolet disinfecting machine, which is similar to those used by many hospitals, to increase the effectiveness of our infection control efforts.  In areas where it is required, we disinfect with a Rapid Disinfecting Unit (also known as R-D), which is specifically programmed to eradicate the COVID-19 virus on impacted surfaces.

·         Universal masking policies are in place – ALL employees MUST wear masks.

·         We have limited access to our buildings and required screening of anyone who enters.

You can also find additional information on our COVID-19 Updates web page at: https://www.stjohnsliving.org/important-covid-19-updates/

Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.

‘Heartbreaking’ report shows virus ravaging NY nursing homes

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The despair wrought on nursing homes by the coronavirus was laid bare Friday in a state survey identifying numerous New York facilities where multiple patients died over the past few weeks.

Nineteen of the state’s nursing homes reported 20 or more deaths linked to the pandemic, the survey said.

One Brooklyn home, the Cobble Hill Health Center, was listed as having 55 deaths. Officials at the facility, which has more than 300 beds located in a 19th-century former hospital in a tony section of Brooklyn, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Four more homes, in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, were listed as having at least 40 deaths.

“These have been surreal times, and we are suffering, as is everybody else,” said Dr. Roy Goldberg, medical director at Kings Harbor Multicare Center, a 720-bed home in the Bronx which reported 45 fatalities.

“Every death is heartbreaking,” he said.

The survey’s release came after days of news media reports about homes so stricken by the virus that bodies had to be stacked inside storage rooms while families struggled to get information about isolated loved ones.

The list was far from complete. It was based on a survey sent by the state asking for details. Nursing homes had until 2 p.m. Thursday to respond.

“We only know what they tell us,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Connecticut released a similar list Thursday, reporting that eight nursing homes had at least 10 residents die.

Through Tuesday, at least 2,477 nursing home patients have been killed by the virus in New York, according to state figures. That amounts to about one in five of the state’s virus-related fatalities. In Connecticut, nursing home residents account for 375 of the state’s 971 virus deaths.

Until this week, officials in several states had declined to identify nursing homes with deadly outbreaks, saying patients deserved privacy or citing challenges in determining whether some extremely frail patients had died of the virus, or other causes.

Many nursing home administrators also declined to release information, leading Cuomo to say this week that the state would begin requiring homes to inform patients and their families within 24 hours if a resident got the virus or died.

Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living, said the figures reflect the fact that those facilities are dealing with extremely vulnerable patients.

“Outbreaks are not the result of inattentiveness or a shortcoming in our facilities,” he wrote in a statement. “The very nature of long-term care is a high touch environment where social distancing is not an option. Staff are helping residents with bathing, dressing, eating and other personal daily needs.”

He also blamed the state health department for worsening the situation by barring nursing homes from denying admission to patients with COVID-19 if they were medically stable.

Nursing homes have been known since the earliest days of the outbreak as a likely trouble spot. A home in Washington state lost 43 residents early in the virus’s spread into the country.

Yet even with that early warning, many nursing homes remained without adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. Testing for residents and staff remains spotty, at best.

Federal officials in mid-March banned visitors, halted group activities and ordered mandatory screening of workers for respiratory symptoms, but by then the virus had quietly spread widely.

Kings Harbor’s medical director, Goldberg, said staff members there created two dedicated COVID-19 units to treat infected patients and followed “every department of health and CDC recommendation and regulation.”

“Obtaining PPE has always been a struggle,” he added, “but we’ve always stayed one step ahead.”

New York state’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, said the state is providing enough personal protective equipment for nursing homes and helping with staffing.Full Coverage: Virus Outbreak

“We’re working with each individual nursing home to address that. We contact them and if there’s a need for PPE … we have stockpiles.”

An Associated Press tally from media reports and state health departments indicates at least 6,461 deaths have been linked to coronavirus in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide as of Friday.

Chris Laxton, executive director of the The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, applauded the state for releasing the data. But he believes the spread of COVID-19 and related deaths are still being under-reported.

“Growth in both cases and deaths is to be expected, even as the surge begins to level off in the community and in hospitals,” Laxton said. “We continue to be in urgent need of PPE, especially gowns, test kits, and surge staff, to limit staff from traveling between buildings and risking additional spread.”

Some nursing homes have disclosed information voluntarily that differed from the numbers put out by the state Friday.

The state survey listed 10 deaths at the Montgomery Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, about 50 miles north of New York City, but facility Vice President Vincent Maniscalco said 21 residents have died recently. Eight of those patients, he said, had symptoms consistent with the virus but died prior to being tested.

“It’s been a very trying time for the staff, to lose residents they care for day in and day out,” Maniscalco said.

With visitors barred from nursing homes to try to keep the infection out, many of those patients have died with only the home’s workers to comfort them.

“When somebody passes away, they celebrate a resident’s life,” Maniscalco said.

Outbreaks killed 46 at a nursing home in suburban Richmond, Virginia, and 22 at a home in central Indiana. County officials in northern New Jersey said Thursday that at least 26 patients had died at a nursing home in Andover.

An Associated Press report found infections were continuing to find their way into nursing homes because screening staff for a fever or questioning them about symptoms didn’t catch people who were infected but asymptomatic.

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