Four facilities in Connecticut will once again welcome COVID-19 patients ready to be released from the hospital, but not ready to return home.
“Individuals that require a nursing home level of care and are still in their infectious period for Covid-19,” said Dr. Diedre Gifford, acting public health commissioner for the state of Connecticut.
Four of the six sites originally equipped to handle these patients in the spring are reopening. A stand-alone site in Meriden is partially up and running while one in Torrington is expected to come online December 1.
They join locations in East Hartford and Wallingford that have dedicated wings within operating nursing homes already accepting patients. Public health officials believe the sites will be used more this winter than they were in the spring.
“We didn't, this time, choose to stand up the two COVID recovery facilities that had required some more movement of residents that were non-COVID-positive last spring. So, our other facilities by definition will be more occupied,” explained Gifford. “We also needed the overflow capacity that these CRFs provide in case, for example, a nursing facility has a small physical plant, or they’re facing staffing challenges, or they’re having difficulties in the midst of an outbreak.”
The system will start with a patient capacity of 340 with plans to grow to 370 beds or more. DPH is looking for a suitable site for a fifth location in eastern Connecticut.
“At the height of the last surge in the spring I don’t think we had more than 46 to 50 people in the facilities at any one time,” said Adelita Orefice, a senior advisor to DPH.
There are currently 95 people recovering in these facilities and 105 beds still available.
“One of the misconceptions might be that when we have a home that has a COVID outbreak that the goal is to get everyone with COVID out of that home, and that’s not necessarily the goal,” said Orefice.
Residents and their families have a choice of whether to stay or move.
“Nursing homes are in fact homes. These are the places where folks actually live. So, it's not an easy decision to ask people to leave their home even temporarily,” she said.
Fines collected for various non-compliance issues are being used to help purchase tents, plexiglass, and speakers to improve the experience of visiting a loved one in a nursing home this holiday season.
Nursing homes can apply for a $3,000 grant for the fund to make these purchases.
The Department of Public Health is urging families not to take their loved ones out of nursing homes for Thanksgiving and follow the visitation policy instead.
“It does pose a particular risk for the elderly to be exposed to individuals who they don’t live with,” said Gifford. “Not only the residents of the nursing homes will stay safe but the staff and the other residents as well.”
“The infection period now is anywhere between 10 and 20 days. For people who are more severely ill there is the potential for someone to be infectious up to 20 days, especially if they have severely immune compromising conditions such as being on chemo for cancer,” added Dr. Vivian Leung, who runs the state’s healthcare-associated infections program.
Public health officials said every nursing home resident in the state will be tested for COVID after Thanksgiving.