Officials from Essex County, New York and a local rehabilitation and senior living center met virtually Thursday afternoon to discuss an outbreak of COVID-19 over the past two weeks that has led to four deaths.
The Essex Center in Elizabethtown, New York is a rehabilitation and senior living center run by Centers Health Care, which operates nursing, managed care and assisted living facilities in NY, NJ and RI. Adirondacks Regional Director Grace Pfordresher says they first identified a COVID-19 positive resident on August 17th. “How we identified that is on that day we had a patient who coded and that patient passed away. That same day the patient’s roommate was sick and exhibiting symptoms. That patient was sent to the emergency room and that’s where a rapid test was performed and we were notified of COVID. On top of that on that same Monday is when we received test results back from our employees and we had three employees who were positive. And that was all on Monday the 17th.”
Pfordresher said on Thursday of the 85 residents 38 are positive along with 23 staff. A day earlier, the Essex County Health Department reported 29 staff, 43 residents and one outside contact had tested positive for the virus for a total of 73 affected individuals. Four deaths are associated with the outbreak. Pfordresher says they don’t know how the virus initially entered the facility nor why so many employees have tested positive. “We have been wearing personal protective equipment in that facility for months now. We’ve been practicing social distancing. We’ve been doing everything by the requirements. So I don’t think we know. I don’t, I don’t have an answer. To be honest with you I’m not quite sure.”
Until the outbreak at the Essex Center Essex County had experienced no deaths from the disease and maintained low positive rates, reporting a total of 81 on August 14th.
Elizabethtown Community Hospital Director of Emergency Medicine and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Clauss noted that facilities like the Essex Center are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. “One of the biggest reasons that this has had such an enormous impact in this area and has caused such upset with the population is in fact that we have been extraordinarily successful up to this point. Even taking into account the significant increase in numbers related to this outbreak in this area we remain at a prevalence of disease many times lower than the average in the country.”
Essex County Board of Supervisors Chair Shaun Gilliland indicated the county would not initiate a formal investigation into the outbreak. “The Essex County Public Health Department works with the Board of Supervisors and they are providing all the information and doing the investigation incident to the control of the outbreak itself. The county does not regulate the nursing home. That is done by the New York state Department of Health.”
COVID positive residents are being housed in a separate area of the facility.