Aides worked at both assisted living and nursing home
Employees at an assisted-living facility in Ridgefield that has lost two residents to the novel coronavirus — including the first Connecticut fatality — are also working at a nursing home nearby, officials there confirmed.
Part-time nursing aides at the Laurel Ridge nursing home also work at Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossing, an assisted-living facility nearby where some residents and staff are now quarantined with coronavirus, said Timothy Brown, a spokesman for Laurel Ridge’s parent company Athena Health Care Systems.
“We do have a couple of employees that work there part-time (at Benchmark),” said Brown. “We’re monitoring them (and) asking them to monitor themselves as well.”
The nursing aides’ work at Laurel Ridge includes hands-on care to residents “with many of their activities of daily living,” Brown said.
While there have been no cases of COVID-19 at Laurel Ridge, another senior facility run by Athena in Stafford Springs, has lost two residents to the disease.
An 83-year-old resident at Evergreen Health Care Center in Stafford Springs died, CT Mirror reported Sunday. Stafford Springs is in Tolland County.
He died days after an 88-year-old man with chronic health problems also died in Stafford Springs. Three residents at that Athena-run facility have also tested positive and were placed in isolation, the outlet reported.
Brown said the two men were discharged from Athena’s care to the hospital, where they later died.
State Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell said the state is investigating all contacts between patients and staff at nursing homes in the state, but did not elaborate on the issue of part-time workers who may hold other jobs.
In his daily news briefing Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday that testing and monitoring at nursing homes is a priority, and that health officials are working to segregate and quarantine those most at risk.
A day before Connecticut’s first coronavirus diagnosis, Lamont’s first question during a private briefing in his office was about the safety of nursing home residents.
Regarding the movements of workers, Benchmark said it cannot stop employees from working elsewhere — but in light of the outbreak, they have asked them to notify the company if they do work elsewhere.
Information about Benchmark or Athena’s Laurel Ridge workers’ other employers was not available Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Benchmark announced the second death of a resident of Ridgefield Crossings attributed to COVID-19.
Both facilities are on the same campus in Ridgefield off Route 7 near the intersection of Route 35, said they are taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease.
Brown said staff at Laurel Ridge have their temperatures taken at the start of their shift and during the day, and must fill out a questionnaire about where they have been.
At neighboring Ridgefield Crossings, where a former resident taken to Danbury Hospital became the first person to die of COVID-19 in the state last week, staff are required to wear protective gear and take residents’ temperatures daily, according to a spokesperson.
Officials there said 16 additional people have since tested positive for the virus. On Tuesday, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the number of positive tests is 17.
A spokesperson for the facility said the people who tested positive have not shown any symptoms, but have been quarantined and are being monitored by staff.
When the state’s first coronavirus diagnosis was made in Danbury, the virus was raging through a nursing home near Seattle, and Lamont’s greatest concern was a similar situation unfolding here.
Life Care Center, the Washington state facility Lamont referred to, lost 35 residents, and workers unknowingly took the disease with them to other nursing homes where they also worked, the New York Times reported.
In a statement sent from Burson Cohn & Wolfe, a public relations firm handling media inquiries for Benchmark Senior Living, the company said it “can’t prevent our employees from working somewhere in addition to Benchmark Senior Living.”
Company officials for both Laurel Ridge and Ridgefield Crossings insist measures are being taken to prevent staff from carrying the virus into either facility.
Besides temperature checks and questionnaires for staff at Laurel Ridge, Brown said, the only people allowed in are vendors for safety products such as the fire system. Deliveries are brought in through the loading docks, and EMTs who come for routine medical appointments go through the same checks as staff, he said.
At Ridgefield Crossings, the facility is stocking up on “large amounts” of hand sanitizer and safety equipment, and have increased training for employees on infectious disease protocols, the PR firm said in its latest statement.
“We know that nursing homes can be a petri dish,” Lamont said Tuesday, adding, “We saw what happened in Kirkland ,Washington, in that nursing home there and we’re going to do the best we can, sometimes we’re sailing against the wind, to make sure that doesn’t happen in our nursing homes.”