Steuben County Health Director on COVID-19 clusters in nursing homes

Updated: April 24, 2020 07:27 PM
Created: April 24, 2020 04:31 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Steuben County has had 33 coronavirus-related deaths. Twenty-four of those deaths are related to nursing homes.

We learned there are three nursing homes in Steuben County with clusters of coronavirus cases, Elderwood and Hornell Gardens, both in Hornell, and Fred & Harriett Taylor Health Center in Bath.  

Friday afternoon Steuben County Health Director Darlene Smith laid out a timeline of how she says the situation has played out.   

On April 6 and 7, the county requested state assistance for the three facilities experiencing clusters.  

Smith said at that time, each facility had multiple COVID-19 positive residents and staff members, as well as multiple deaths.  

On April 8 and 9, the state conducted testing at one of the facilities in Hornell.

The state then went to the nursing home in Bath. That facility was then deemed satisfactory by the state, and the state allegedly refused to conduct random swabbing at that facility. 

At the same time, test results from the first Hornell facility were beginning to come in, showing 46 total staff and residents were infected.

On April 13, the situation at the Hornell facility grew more concerning, so a plan was put in place to move COVID-19 negative residents to an out-of-county facility.  

On April 15, the county requested the state do universal testing at another facility in Hornell.

The state never responded, so the county independently coordinated testing, which resulted in six positive cases.

On April 16, the county did testing at the facility in Bath and found 16residents and staff members tested positive.  

A few weeks prior, in the first Hornell nursing home, the county says they tried to get guidance from the state on why positive staff members were still allowed to work with residents, but the state never responded.

"On April 10, the county was not permitted to participate on a planning call with the doh and the facility owner for mitigation and response planning,” Smith said. “We learned the DOH will allow positive asymptomatic staff to work with COVID positive patients only. We raised our objections and concerns to this."

The county says that according to the State Department of Health guidelines, it is up to a facility to determine whether COVID-19 positive staff can continue working with COVID-19 positive residents and patients.

The NYSDOH released the following statement:

“We've said from the start that protecting our most vulnerable populations including people in nursing homes is our top priority and that's why the State acted quickly and aggressively to issue guidance specifically for these facilities on testing, infection control, environmental cleaning, staffing, visitation, admission, readmission, and outreach to residents and families.  The Department will continue to work with administrators of private and county nursing homes to do everything possible to protect the health, well-being and privacy of the residents who call these facilities home.”

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