ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare is set to receive rapid-response COVID-19 tests and testing equipment as efforts to contain an outbreak at the facility continue.
As of Tuesday, 88 cases had been connected to a COVID-19 cluster at the Elizabethtown nursing home: 46 residents, 30 staff members and 12 contacts of staff. Six of the residents have died.
According to a press release, North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will send the rapid tests.
"The news that HHS is sending rapid-response testing equipment to the center is an extremely critical development," she said in a statement.
"Ensuring safety in our North Country nursing homes continues to be one of my top priorities as we work to defeat COVID-19."
Essex Center is owned by Centers Health Care. Spokesperson Jeffrey Jacomowitz said the tests were not yet received Tuesday afternoon.
"We are waiting to receive these tests from the (state Department of Health)."
Stefanik had also contacted the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to request assistance.
Last week, one of the agency's Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) teams visited Essex Center to provide technical assistance and assess steps being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The release said that, following the visit, Essex Center is taking the following actions:
• Expanding on-site physician presence and securing additional staff.
• The Medical Director is now on-site at least once a week, the nurse practitioner on-site presence has increased to several times a week and the telehealth visits continue for both general and psychiatric coverage.
• Working with the local health department to identify solutions to the housing cohorting recommendations for external staff brought in to assist.
• Accepting no new admissions at this time.
NO NEW ADMISSIONS
Asked for the status of these recommendations, an Essex Center spokesperson said the facility has a medical director and in-house physician who come in throughout the week to check on residents.
The same goes for a nurse practitioner and nursing supervisor, who will call a physician if necessary when one is not on-site.
Essex Center additionally works with various agencies and its own network to staff up when needed, and always meets the state Department of Health mandated staffing.
No new admissions have been taken since mid-August, the spokesperson said. Staff who have worked and continue to work with COVID-19-positive residents are dedicated to that cohort and are kept separate from those who have tested negative.
Stefanik said Essex Center was taking the recommendations seriously.
"Additionally, I am very grateful to our hardworking local public health officials and CMS personnel for responding to my request to help mitigate this critical situation.
"My prayers are with the affected Essex Center residents, their families, and the staff as they work on the frontlines.”
Due to the outbreak, Vermont has imposed new travel restrictions on those traveling to and from Essex County.
Vermonters must quarantine when they return home after traveling to Essex or Hamilton counties, according to a North Country Chamber of Commerce update.
Visitors to Vermont from those counties must either quarantine for 14 days when they arrive, or quarantine at home for seven days and test negative before traveling.
"Essex and Hamilton county residents who plan to camp or vacation in Vermont are also required to sign a certificate of compliance with the quarantine requirement when they book a campsite, vacation rental or hotel room," the update said.
"Essential workers traveling for business face different requirements."
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