nursing home
A health care worker at Kimberly Hall North watches through a window as supporters show their appreciation to workers at the skilled nursing facility with a drive-through tribute Tuesday afternoon. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org
Lisandra Marshall-McIntosh, food service director at Kimberly Hall North, waves to supporters as they show their support for health care workers at the skilled nursing facility with a drive-through tribute Tuesday afternoon.

While coronavirus-related deaths among Connecticut nursing home residents rose 30% over the past week, that’s the slowest growth rate in nearly a month, according to new data released late Thursday by Gov. Ned Lamont.

COVID-19 infection totals among nursing home residents also grew more slowly since April 29, while cases among assisted living facilities actually declined, the administration also reported. It did not report coronavirus-related death totals among assisted living facility residents, despite earlier statements that it would do so Thursday.

The administration did announce Thursday that it would accelerate efforts to test all residents and staff in each of Connecticut’s 213 nursing homes.

“We have been constrained since the beginning of this pandemic by test kits and supplies, and more recently, we’ve started to get more supplies and we’ve been able to increase the amount of testing we’ve been doing,” said Josh Geballe, Lamont’s chief operating officer. “As recently as this past weekend, we’re now sending teams into our nursing homes to test everyone, whether they’re symptomatic or asymptomatic.”

The latest report showed that 1,627 nursing home residents who tested positive or displaying COVID-19 symptoms have died. That’s up 30% from last week’s report.

But deaths among nursing home residents had risen 63% in the previous weekly report, which compiled data through April 29. They had risen by 105% in the week ending April 22.

Riverside Health & Rehabilitation in East Hartford has recorded the most fatalities, with 47, according to the latest report. Kimberly Hall North in Windsor has now logged a total of 40 deaths, and Abbott Terrace in Waterbury had 38.

Confirmed cases among nursing home residents grew at a much slower rate over the past week, up 25%, from 4,814 to 6,008 positive tests. But the weekly growth rate was 41% on April 29 and 100% on April 22.

The Lamont administration has struggled throughout the pandemic to track its full impact on the elderly in specialized facilities.

Initial reports understated the spread for two reasons. Local health officials initially didn’t disclose to their state counterparts the untested seniors who’d displayed COVID-19 symptoms before dying. And Lamont didn’t order assisted living facilities, which house more than 5,400 elderly tenants, to report coronavirus cases and fatalities until April 23. The first report, issued April 30, listed infection totals but not coronavirus-related deaths.

Thursday’s report was just the second to track infections among residents of assisted living centers. Administration officials said they did not release the number of deaths in those facilities because they were still working to ensure the data was accurate.

Health officials “intended to report those figures in today’s report but needed more time to ensure uniform and accurate data was collected from assisted living facilities,” said Max Reiss, Lamont’s spokesman. “The goal is to get those figures reported to the public next week.”

After reporting 662 cases — involving either positive tests or patients displaying COVID-19 symptoms — in these centers one week ago, state health officials found 506 cases through May 6. That’s a decline of  nearly 24%.

Waveny LifeCare Network & The Village at Waveny Care Center in New Canaan recorded the most confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases among assisted living facilities, with 45. That figure represents 54% of its resident population.

The Village at Buckland Court in South Windsor logged 40 suspected and confirmed cases, accounting for 41% of its residents. And Bethel Health Care & The Cascades in Bethel had 39 confirmed and suspected cases, representing 28% of its population.

Assisted living centers serve residents age 55 and older who need some health, nursing care, or other assistance with daily living activities, but not necessarily the skilled care provided by a nursing home. Technically the state doesn’t license assisted living facilities, but rather the medical agencies that serve their residents.

These medical agencies must regularly assess residents’ health conditions and refer them to appropriate medical providers when necessary. A registered nurse must be on call 24 hours a day.

While infection spread continues to slow among the elderly in specialized facilities, it remains a large part of Connecticut’s overall COVID-19 caseload.

The 1,627 deaths among nursing home residents represents 58% of the 2,797 fatalities recorded through May 6.

“The newly released data show that the deadly virus still has hold on our Connecticut nursing homes,” leaders of the state’s two largest nursing home association wrote Thursday in a joint statement. “As such, our nursing home operators and employees won’t be letting up until the virus is defeated.”

Matthew V. Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, and Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, added that “the statewide testing of all nursing home residents and the improved availability of [personal protective equipment] on the immediate horizon will strengthen these efforts. … These measures together hold a promise for better outcomes in the weeks ahead, but we are not able to say we are there yet.”

The association representing assisted living medical service agencies did not comment.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

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