NEWINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — With 43% of all COVID-19 deaths in Connecticut occurring among nursing home patients, the National Guard is now stepping in to assist the Department of Public Health monitor infection control and PPE at all nursing and assisted living facilities in the state.
Forty guardsmen and women along with five Centers for Disease Control and Prevention federal public health officers will augment CT’s Dept. of Public Health inspectors as they make surprise, unannounced visits to each long-term care home in the state.
Already, state COO Josh Geballe says DPH has visited 216 of the 350 nursing and assisted living homes in the state.
“This is about ensuring people’s safety. These are people’s parents, these are people’s grandparents. We want to make sure they’re taken care of. The healthcare workers–the people who are on the frontlines of this–they’re also our friends and family,” said Guard spokesperson Captain David Pytlik.
In a statement DPH says adding the guard will “allow unannounced in-person visits to every facility in Connecticut to monitor things like staffing, PPE levels, infection control procedures, reporting to families, maintenance and upkeep, [and] cleanliness” among other things.
Families have previously complained to News 8 about a lack of notification by nursing homes when their loved one is showing COVID symptoms until it’s too late. Our team brought that to the attention of DPH last week.
The first site visits with the Guard began Tuesday. News 8 cameras were there as medics visited Autumn Lake Healthcare at Bucks Hill.
“The staff have the supplies. They have whatever they need,” said administrator Yosef Mervin.
Outside Autumn Lake, supporters honked for frontline workers. In the state’s last tally, the facility had 1 positive resident and no deaths. Mervin says that is all thanks to the superhero efforts of his staff who treat their patients like family.
“We’ve stopped their visitors. We’re their family. We always have been,” he said.
“This is not supposed to be a ‘gotcha,'” said Cpt Pytlik, “This is about making sure, in times of heightened stress, where it’s too easy to make mistakes, we want to make sure everyone is being safe and being taken care of, both the residents and the workers.”
The state plans to release new numbers on nursing home coronavirus fatalities and cases by Thursday. On Tuesday, at the Governor’s daily briefing, state epidemiologist Dr. Matthew Cartter said he believes infection rates in Connecticut nursing homes have “leveled off.”