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Connecticut nursing homes to go under the microscope for independent investigation

The state is going out to bid, plans to hire a firm quickly, and wants the investigation wrapped up before Fall.

HARTFORD, Conn — As infection rates decline, the state is moving from a response mode to an investigation and prevention mode when it comes to nursing homes. It’s the headline of the pandemic. COVID deaths at long term care facilities make up 71% of the COVID deaths in the state.

An independent third party investigation will be conducted. The state is going out to bid, plans to hire a firm quickly, and wants the investigation wrapped up before Fall. 

Connecticut Chief Operating Officer Josh Geballe said, "I think this is an opportunity to learn what we can do. What we did right, what we can do better. Preparing both for a second wave and looking longer term."

Mag Morelli of Leading Age Connecticut represents non for profit nursing homes. She told FOX61 they welcome the review and want to learn lessons to better prepare for a possible second wave. 

"Science and medicine didn’t know everything it knows now about the virus and so the guidance we received in March is very different from the guidance we are receiving now. The PPE supply we have now is very different from the levels we were able to obtain in February and March. So I think we are even more prepared now," said Morelli.

The independent investigation won’t be focused on discipline or penalties. That power remains with the Department of Public Health, which has already levied more than $40,000 in fines for violations discovered during more than 1,000 repeated inspections. But Republican State Senator Kevin Kelly says the scope of the investigation needs to be broadened to look into not only the response of nursing homes but also the response of state government.

 "The Governor isn’t the individual who should be doing this it should really be the legislature. Not only do we need to look at nursing homes and hospitals and home care providers, but also DPH, DAS and what the state did or didn’t do in the process that left seniors and their lives at risk," said Kelly of Stratford.

One bit of good news. As the infection rate slows, visitor restrictions may be eased to allow families who haven’t physically been with their loved ones in months to do so from a distance, outside. 

RELATED: Why is the Covid-19 death rate so high?

RELATED: Governor Lamont calls for an independent review of COVID-19 in Connecticut nursing homes and assisted living facilities

Gov. Ned Lamont said, "Now is a time when we think we ought to be able to make it a little easier to visit a loved one who’s been in isolation at that nursing home for a period of months. Especially folks with some levels of dementia. They need that common touch. They need that family member."

It also worth noting that through the Governor's executive powers, he made nursing homes immune from civil lawsuits. But he also mandated the testing of nursing home staff.

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