Coronavirus Outbreak

What's Happened Since the Deadly Covid-19 Outbreak at Canaan Nursing Home

NBC Connecticut

We're revisiting a local story that dominated national headlines about a month ago.

It was mid-November and when everything unfolded at the Geer Village Senior Community in Canaan. Eight people died and nearly 90 had become infected with Covid-19.

It started around the beginning of October, but just a few weeks later, those senior residents had passed away.

With the worst of the situation in the past, NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran spoke with the CEO of Geer Village, Kevin O'Connell. He tells us 81 of the 89 people who were infected during the outbreak have recovered. The remaining eight people were the residents who died.

"This has been, for many of us the worst part of our entire careers, really. And for the staff, if you can imagine, you know, having to wear N-95 masks, a surgical mask, goggles, face shield, a gown, gloves, and then changing them between rooms. It's been incredibly physically and mentally taxing. So the staff have struggled through this and many of the folks that we've lost or gotten sick, really we treat them they feel like family. So you know, we haven't slowed down enough to even fully go through the grieving process at this point," O'Connell said.

He said everyone in the facility, the entire staff and the 150 or so residents, are currently virus-free. One staff member tested positive over the Thanksgiving holiday, but the facility's screening and testing protocols caught it at the door, before the employees was near any residents.

One thing that's really crucial to how this outbreak happened is timing. O'Connell said positive cases started popping up in the facility in early October.

Geer Village in North Canaan has 70 residents at its skilled nursing facility and in the past six weeks or so it’s had 67 Covid-19 cases in residents and 22 in staff.

He said most of the staff and residents were vaccinated at that time, but their initial vaccinations were back January and they hadn't gotten a booster yet.

"That's what set us up for this outbreak, we then got 8,10 months into it. And then the booster was approved. And we had it scheduled for right at the end of October. And the virus got in right at that point in time. And we clearly didn't realize that we had that level of waning immunity, that it would get through that many people," O'Connell said.

A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine found people in nursing homes are much more likely to die of Covid-19 if the staff caring for them remains largely unvaccinated. And Covid-19 cases among residents whose staff had the lowest vaccination rates were nearly double compared to facilities with the highest staff vaccination rates.

O'Connell said all eligible staff and residents at Geer Village are vaccinated and have since gotten a booster shot.

Looking back, he thinks bout how much worst this whole thing could have been.

"Think back before the vaccine was really widespread. We couldn't go back a year ago or so, and instead of having, you know, 89 affected and eight people passing, it could have been dozens passing. So I kind of look at it, how many did the vaccine save, you know, and prevent loss of life," O'Connell said.

The Geer facility, like much of the healthcare industry, is in need of new workers. O'Connell said he's been trying to take care of the employees he has after what they've dealt with. In the meantime, he encourages everyone to get the vaccine and booster shot.

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