NEW LONDON, CT (WTNH) — Starting Saturday, people visiting friends and family at nursing homes in Connecticut faced new rules upon entering, as the state’s updated guidance went into effect. While COVID-19 cases are decreasing across the state, the numbers are rising in nursing homes.
As Margaret Breen arrived at Beechwood Post Acute and Transitional Care in New London, she was quickly screened and approved to go inside and see her mom, something she wasn’t able to do at the beginning of the pandemic.
“It just rips you open. I’ve been visiting my mom here, otherwise, every day for six years and a half,” Breen said.
She’s continued that routine, since last spring when Beechwood reopened to visitors, but she remains concerned as cases spike again in nursing homes.
“Is it a horrible situation? Absolutely,” Breen said.
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, from January 5 to 18, 2022, 58 residents died from COVID-19 complications, more than four times the number of deaths from December 22, 2021 to January 4, 2022 when there were 13. As for cases, there are 1,616 residents infected with the virus, nearly double the numbers from the two weeks earlier when there were 829.
Beechwood President Bill White said, despite a booster mandate they issued at their nursing home for staff and residents, new cases appear to be traced back to staff, new residents, and visitors.
“Omicron has been like a tidal wave overwhelming everything,” White said.
To help, Governor Ned Lamont issued an executive order in the past week, updating visitor guidance. If you want to go inside a nursing home, you must show proof of vaccination including a booster if you’re eligible. If you’re unvaccinated or don’t have proof with you, then recent negative test results from a PCR test 72 hours prior, or a rapid antigen test 48 hours prior. Otherwise, you will have to take a rapid test at the facility. Though, if tests are not on hand that requirement is waived.
“I know that [the state is] working on a system to make sure they can keep us stocked,” White said.
While White and Breen both feel the state should have acted sooner, they welcome the additional protection.
“Nothing is the end all be all, but the way we battled this for almost two years now is to use every single thing we can,” White said.
“Is it going to prevent a spread of virus or other variants of the virus? Maybe not, but maybe it will slow it down,” Breen added.
White said on the first day of these new rules they tested four people, including two unvaccinated and two without proof. All of them had negative results and got to see their loved ones.
However, not all visitors welcomed the new policies. News 8 learned from an official at another nursing home in our region, one person refused to get tested and left.