Connecticut’s Department of Public Health has issued an emergency order that will close a Norwich nursing home where officials allege violations of COVID-19 protocols have led to several deaths.
Acting Commissioner Dr. Deidre Gifford said Wednesday’s unprecedented order to remove all 53 patients from Three Rivers Health Care Nursing Home came at the recommendation of the home’s temporary manager, Katharine Sacks. Sacks was appointed last week by DPH following an investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak that began at the home in late July.
At least least 21 residents and six staff became infected, and at least four of those patients have since died.
“Given the scope of the facility’s serious deficiencies, we have concluded that the facility cannot be brought into compliance with federal and state regulatory requirements by the time period permitted under federal law … and that the facility’s continued operation presents a meaningful risk of harm to the residents of the facility.”
The Health Department had previously determined that Three Rivers failed to initially group residents who had tested positive to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and failed to use personal protective equipment in accordance with federal standards. There were a number of other findings, including failure to maintain a 14-day quarantine for a resident exposed to COVID-19.
Sacks said she found other widespread problems dealing with staffing, infection control, education and management and financial issues, which made it clear the home could not be brought into compliance by Sept. 30.
“It took me about 30 hours on site to realize that the building blocks of compliance were not present on site,” she said.
The home’s owner, JACC Health Center of Norwich, said it is co-operating with the state.
“Our priority now is acting safely and swiftly to relocate our residents to other homes, working closely with their families and loved ones.”
Sacks said it will take about a week to remove all the patients to other homes. Those infected with the new coronavirus will be sent to a nursing home in East Hartford that was set up in the spring to isolate infected nursing home patients.
In other news related to the pandemic:
Connecticut officials have moved a coronavirus isolation unit for inmates to another prison after discovering that prisoners were hiding symptoms to avoid going to the maximum-security facility that first housed the unit.
The Department of Correction announced Wednesday that the isolation unit has been moved to the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield from Northern Correctional Institution in Somers. MacDougall-Walker is a high- to maximum-security prison.
Prison officials said there currently are no inmates in the new isolation unit, which is prepared to take prisoners with symptoms immediately, and no inmates have had symptoms since Sept. 2. Seven prisoners statewide who have tested positive for the coronavirus but don’t have symptoms are being isolated at their existing prisons.
Since the pandemic began, 1,500 inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus and seven have died, according to Correction Department data. The state prison population is nearly 9,500.
Correction Department Commissioner Angel Quiros said MacDougall-Walker was chosen based on its modern infrastructure, which is able to adhere to federal guidelines on how to care for prisoners during the pandemic.
FOOTBALL STILL CANCELED
Officials with the organization that oversees high school sports in Connecticut have once again voted to cancel the fall football season.
The decision comes after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference failed to convince state health officials in a meeting last week that it could mitigate the risk of players spreading the new coronavirus by using face shields and requiring other safety protocols.
“Our effort was to do as much as we could to be able to play this fall,” CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said. “It was evident that in order for us to play this fall we were going to have to find a strategy that would re-categorize the sport out of the higher risk classification and we just weren’t able to do that.”
Lungarini said the board could consider allowing a football season later in the school year and this week will discuss some alternative to full-contact football for this fall.
BY THE NUMBERS
The number of COVID-19 cases in Connecticut has risen to to 55,166, according to the latest metrics from Gov. Ned Lamont’s office. Two more deaths have been linked to the virus, bringing that total to 4,487. The state reported that 1.19% of people tested in the last day were found to be infected. That rate has now been over 1% for a week.