The coronavirus onslaught in Connecticut nursing homes continued with an additional 75 deaths this week, leaving providers, families and state officials looking toward the tantalizingly close approval and dissemination of a COVID-19 vaccine.
During the week of Nov. 25-Dec. 1 there were a total of 159 COVID deaths in the state, with about 66% of the total among nursing home residents, according to state Department of Public Health data released Thursday.
The increases in both infections and deaths continues a troubling trend that began several weeks ago and shows no signs of abating. As the virus has spread through communities across the state, it has spread into nursing homes.
There have now been 3,236 nursing home residents that have died of COVID-19 since March. All told the state has had 5,111 deaths and about 70% of them, including assisted living facilities, have occurred in long-term care facilities.
During the past week, there were 443 COVID infections of nursing home residents. The week prior, there were 413 new COVID cases and 68 deaths. The week before the numbers were 309 and 39, respectively.
“This is groundhog day all over again. This is the exact same patients that we saw in the spring,” said Dr. Patrick Troy, a Pulmonologist at Hartford Hospital.
“COVID has a predelection for a certain population,” Troy said. “It clearly targets elderly, so long-term care residents are being greatly impacted. They were savaged mercilessly in the spring.”
Two facilities that have battled outbreaks the past few weeks continued to do so. The Masonicare Health Center in Wallingford had 11 deaths last week — the most of any facility. In the past two weeks the facility has had 18 deaths.
In a message to residents and families posted on the Masonicare website Wednesday, President and CEO JP Venoit said “while it is exciting that a vaccine is almost here everyone must remain vigilant.”
“I”m very excited we will be able to administer a vaccine to our staff and residents but it is not the be all and end all of a cure. It will take us a long time to still battle this terrible virus,” Venoit said.
On Thursday state officials announced that nursing home residents and staff will be among the first to be vaccinated. State officials expect the vaccinations could begin the week of Dec. 14, pending FDA approval.
The federal government has made a deal with CVS and Walgreen’s to administer the shots to all of the state’s 22,000 nursing home residents and assisted living residents.
Another facility where an outbreak has continued is the Hebrew Health & Rehabilitation Center in West Hartford, which had an additional five deaths, more than doubling its total in less than two weeks.
DPH also has been responding to several new outbreaks, including one at Wolcott View Manor, where DPH officials visited Thursday. Just two weeks ago Wolcott View Manor was a “COVID naive” facility meaning it had no cases among its 81 residents. This week there were 33 infections and one death. There are now only 11 facilities out of 213 nursing homes that DPH still considers “COVID naive.”
Wolcott Manor has taken some of the residents from a Waterbury nursing home that is closing. State officials are helping the Meridian Manor Corporation disperse its residents to other facilities in the area. Wolcott Manor has taken some of them, but DPH officials said earlier this week the residents from Meridian Manor had all tested negative for the virus.
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