CONNECTICUT, USA — The state health department just issued a mandate that all nursing homes and assisted living facilities to test their staff for the Coronavirus once a week. State health leaders are concerned about the rise in the community spread of COVID.
For the reporting period of October 14-20, 71 residents and 86 staff have caught COVID at CT’s 213 nursing homes. 15 more nursing home residents have died. Matt Barrett, President of the Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities said, "There have been 3 or 4 outbreaks that are concerning, and I think they are evidence of community spread on the rise."
Recent outbreaks include the Avon Health Center, Touchpoints at Chestnut in East Windsor, Fairview in Groton, and Autumn Lake in New Britain. In a memo to all nursing homes, state health commissioner Deidre Gifford is now mandating weekly testing of all healthcare facility staff. When a case is identified the weekly testing mandate expends to all the residents too until 14 days of no cases. "You can’t just talk vigilance you need to act on vigilance and the commissioner's direction here is an act of vigilance which we support," said Barrett.
And while the testing staff and residents is mandatory, the state can’t mandate the testing of visitors. The federal government won’t allow it. State Long-term Care Ombudsman Mairead Painter said, "We’ve seen an increase in numbers in our state. We’ve seen an increase in nursing homes with positive tests and the impact to indoor visits."
Nursing homes have been trying to get around the lack of a federal visitor testing mandate by putting in place their own visitor testing policies, but they legally can’t refuse a visitor entry solely because they decline to get tested. "Now there are some reasons why a nursing home can deny a visit," said Painter.
If they are showing symptoms for example or refuse to wear a mask. But Painter says despite its wide availability, testing can also be a barrier for some people who have transportation issues. Delayed testing results is also a problem. "Some homes have requested that a person be tested up to 72 hours before. That might be a challenge," said Painter.
But with the weather getting colder many families say indoor visitation is a necessity. These residents have been cut off from interaction with loved ones for seven months, leading to mental health issues like depression.