Four new positives in Essex Center outbreak

ELIZABETHTOWN — Four new cases of COVID-19 associated with the outbreak at Essex Center have been found, bringing the total number of cases associated with the nursing home to 88.

Of the four new cases, one is a resident of the nursing home and rehabilitation center, and three are community members who came in contact with Essex Center staff. Six Essex Center residents have died from COVID-19 since Aug. 17. Three COVID-positive residents remain hospitalized.

Nursing home residents are among the highest-risk populations amid the coronavirus pandemic. As of Aug. 13, more than 402,000 people at some 17,000 facilities across the country have been infected by the coronavirus, the New York Times reported. At least 68,000 people have died as of Aug. 13, accounting for roughly 41% of total COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

Staff from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services visited the Essex Center last week — at the request of Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville — to review the steps being taken to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus.

Essex Center has a medical director and an in-house physician who visit throughout the week to check on residents, according to Jeffrey Jacomowitz, spokesman for the Centers Health Care, a Bronx-based organization that operates Essex Center. The home also has a nurse practitioner and a nursing supervisor on-site throughout the week who can call a doctor to the facility if there isn’t one there, he said.

“The facility works with various agencies, plus through our own network, to staff up when necessary,” Jacomowitz said. “Essex Center always meets the New York State Department of Health state-mandated staffing.”

The facility stopped accepting new admissions in mid-August. Nursing home residents who test positive for COVID-19 are moved to a COVID-only unit staffed by employees who work only in that unit, according to Jacomowitz.

All residents, regardless of whether they have COVID-19, have been separated into small “cohorts” with little intermingling between the groups. Staff are being asked to change their personal protective equipment between each patient. Resident COVID-19 screening has been increased from once per day to once per staff shift, Centers Health Care Regional Director Grace Pfordresher said at a press conference last week.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is “immediately sending rapid response tests and testing equipment to the Essex Center,” according to Stefanik’s office. Stefanik described HHS’ commitment to supplies as “an extremely critical development.”

“I am very grateful to our hardworking local public health officials and CMS personnel for responding to my request to help mitigate this critical situation,” Stefanik said in a statement. “My prayers are with the affected Essex Center residents, their families, and the staff as they work on the front lines.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Essex Center had not yet received those supplies, according to Jacomowitz.

Two new cases of COVID-19 not associated with the nursing home were also found on Tuesday, the Essex County Health Department reported.

Two of the new cases announced on Tuesday are people who live in the town of North Elba. These cases are the town’s first new positives since July 20.


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