Ridgefield facilities hardest hit by COVID only seeing isolated cases now

RIDGEFIELD — Of the 67 COVID-19 deaths in Ridgefield, more than half were residents from the town’s two assisted living facilities.

When the pandemic struck, nursing homes and assisted living facilities lost beloved residents to the virus in high numbers due to outbreaks, a trend that was no different for Benchmark Senior Living at Ridgefield Crossings and Laurel Ridge Health Care Center. But now, months later, the two institutions are not seeing nearly as many cases surface.

Since March 2020, Laurel Ridge has had 19 COVID-related deaths and Ridgefield Crossings has had 29 deaths, according to officials. The total 48 comprises the majority of virus-related deaths reported in Ridgefield.

“It’s tough to lose people,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “Most of the people we lost in the beginning were either (from) Ridgefield Crossings or Laurel Ridge — we had a very bad spike (in) that area.”

Laurel Ridge cares for high-risk patients and residents struggling with multiple comorbidities while Ridgefield Crossings houses seniors who either live independently, in an assisted living community or memory care unit, or require skilled nursing support.

“The staff and other residents at the building certainly grieved for each of these residents and their family members,” said Tim Brown, Director of Marketing and Communications for Athena Healthcare Systems, which manages Laurel Ridge. “It had a tremendous impact on everybody at the time.”

Despite the revolving door of patients coming and going for short-term care, Laurel Ridge has not reported any cases in “some time now,” Brown said. He also indicated that residents and staff have been feeling “much more hopeful” lately.

Whereas this time last year virus outbreaks were rampant, these facilities are now reporting only a handful of cases. Laurel Ridge, for example, had one isolated COVID case in March 2021, Brown said, and although there were some positive tests among employees over the past few months, they never led to “any type of a spread in the building,” he added.

Ridgefield Crossings’ Executive Director William Crawford confirmed some of the same. “There have not been any recent COVID-19 deaths at the community,” he said, but the total number of residents has fallen to 93 — down from 138 in March 2020.

Brown said being knowledgeable about the virus and learning how to mitigate its spread with personal protective equipment and social distancing has been extremely helpful in reducing case counts and getting things under control. To that point, both facilities have resumed family visitations and administered vaccines to those who wanted them. Additionally, Laurel Ridge is continuing to hold “catch up” vaccine clinics to target individuals who chose to wait and see how others reacted to the shots.

As Ridgefield Crossings honors the memories of its residents who died of COVID-19, Crawford said he feels “overwhelmed with happiness” for the future as seniors begin to reconnect with others, their interests and, most importantly, their loved ones.

“The unique bonds forged within our community over the past year will allow us to continue honoring those we have lost,” he said, “and to look to the future with hope, optimism and renewed strength of purpose.”