MILFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — What went wrong inside Connecticut’s nursing homes? There’s a big push to find out why more than half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths happened inside health care facilities. Now, Yale researchers have published one of the first in-depth studies in the country.

“She was on a ventilator for three, over three weeks. By rights, she should be dead,” said Lou Jackson, whose wife Barbara was one of Connecticut’s first widely-reported COVID-19 cases after her family insisted she got it at a nursing home.

Though Golden Hill in Milford has denied the Jacksons’ claim, Barbara’s family wants care providers across the state to do better, now that they know better.

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“Initially, it was a very painful lesson for everyone in this state and it resulted in sickness and death,” said Jackson.

With over half of all Connecticut COVID-19 deaths reported in nursing homes, the state has hired an outside firm to investigate what went wrong.

An initial report is due at the end of this week. Meanwhile, in a first-of-its-kind study, Yale School of Public Health researchers studied 33 local nursing homes at the height of the pandemic. There were far more asymptomatic spreaders than anyone expected.

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“You really just need to test widely and you can’t just rely on temperature checks, or asking for shortness of breath, the other things we all commonly associate with COVID,” said Dr. Sunil Parikh, one of the study’s authors. “This strategy has got to be employed the moment you have COVID in your facility or any congregate setting.”

The nursing home trade group Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities says once providers realized the extent of asymptomatic spread, resources to control it were scarce.

“It’s just regrettable that those supplies, testing availability, and adequate PPE were just not present in March and into April. The good news is that they’re becoming much more available and we have a good supply of both testing and PPE,” said president Matthew Barrett.

Jackson hopes other families will be spared the pain his endured.

“My wife, she’s strong and she’s put a lot of effort into recovering, so she’s going to make it OK. But she went to hell and back,” he said. 

The state has commissioned an independent investigation into how nursing homes handled COVID-19. An interim report is due by the end of this week.

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