CAPITAL REGION — The novel coronavirus has caused new outbreaks of illness at two Capital Region adult care facilities, as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Capital Region continues to rise.
An outbreak at the Ingersoll Place Assisted Living Facility in Niskayuna has caused three recent deaths and sickened 27 residents, according to information obtained by the Gazette. Elsewhere, nearly two dozen cases were are reported among residents of the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Gloversville, the the Fulton County Public Health Department said Saturday.
Outbreaks at adult care facilities are considered particularly serious because their populations are so vulnerable, due to advanced age and residents frequently having underlying health conditions.
The first resident died at Ingersoll several weeks ago, and the facility announced two additional deaths in a letter to family members on Saturday.
“It is with great sadness that we report the deaths of two Ingersoll Place residents over the past two days due to complications with the coronavirus/COVID-19,” according to the notification obtained by The Gazette. “They were hospitalized at the time of their deaths and their families notified.”
Twelve residents tested positive following state-run testing at the facility on Tuesday and are in quarantine, confirmed Ingersoll Place spokesperson Ceil Mack on Saturday. All were asymptomatic.
An additional 13 residents had been sent to hospitals over the past two weeks.
“Most remain hospitalized or in skilled nursing facilities,” according to the memo sent to family members on Thursday. The letter added: “There are a few residents either hospitalized or residing at Ingersoll Place that are awaiting test results.”
Mack estimated Ingersoll Place housed 70 people before the pandemic.
Ten Ingersoll Place employees previously tested positive and that number may rise higher pending test results.
Any nursing homes or adult care facilities reporting fewer than five fatalities are excluded for privacy reasons from being listed in the publicly-available state Department of Health COVID-19 tracker. The state Department of Health and Schenectady County officials referred questions about the situation to the facility.
More than half of the county’s 22 deaths from the virus have been at long-term care facilities. “As of today, we can confirm that 12 adult care facility residents, within Schenectady County, that have tested positive for COVID-19, have unfortunately passed away,” said county spokesperson Erin Roberts.
A total of 58 adult care facility residents within the county have tested positive, 39 of them currently active cases, Roberts said. To date, 413 people have been infected in the county, meaning 14 percent of all positive cases have been long-term care residents.
Ingersoll acknowledged “staffing issues,” but it’s unclear the extent to which that might contribute to the spread of the virus. The facility said it “tapped into several workforce arenas” and hired furloughed patient care technicians and health care workers, it said.
Roberts confirmed the county worked with Ingersoll to facilitate testing earlier this week, and said the county has dedicated two staffers to communicate with Ingersoll’s nursing, administration and board on a daily basis.
No patients were positive at the county-run Glendale Home in Glenville as of Friday morning, according to Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman. One staffer had previously tested positive and has since recovered, Fluman said in a Facebook Live event on Friday.
In Fulton County, meanwhile, the privately owned Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare, located on County Route 122 just west of Gloversville, notified county officials on Friday that 23 residents had tested positive for the respiratory illness, though no staff tested positive. The center has 176 beds.
“Numerous residents at the skilled nursing facility tested positive for the virus and the situation is being actively managed by the center’s administration with direct oversight by the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Communicable Disease and Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Control staff,” said Laurel Headwell, Fulton County’s director of public health.
How the novel coronavirus entered the nursing home remains under investigation. The home, like all nursing and rehab centers across the state, have been closed to visitors since early March because the populations in such facilities are considered vulnerable.
“Monitoring of all residents and staff is ongoing,” Headwell said. “The public health director and the department’s team of public health nurses are working to stay aware of any developments over the weekend and into the future. Other healthcare facilities have been notified.”
County officials are working on a plan to have on-site testing for employees at the center starting early next week.
To date, rural Fulton County has been one of the most lightly-hit counties in the Capital Region, with only 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases before the Fulton Center’s reported cases. On Saturday, the state Health Department increased the county’s total to 61. Three county residents have died, none of them residents of an adult care facility.
The county emergency management office is providing substantial new supplies of personal protective supplies and equipment to the Fulton Center, and is prepared to provide more, Headwell said.
Efforts to get comment from Fulton Center management on Saturday were unsuccessful.
The true picture of the virus’ spread in nursing homes across the area is unclear because of varying statutes regarding disclosure. Nursing homes must comply with a series of state executive orders, including notifying family members of residents about positive tests or deaths — but there are no directives compelling facilities to release that information to the general public.
“It’s up to them to determine how they’re letting the public know, but they are under the same regulations to let their patient and patient families know who has been infected by COVID-19,” Fluman said.
Counties, as administrators of public health programs, have some insight into what goes on at nursing homes, but lack oversight, which is provided by the state and federal governments.
State officials acknowledged earlier this week that some nursing homes have failed to submit mandatory reports requiring them to immediately notify state and public health authorities of positive cases and deaths. That resulted in the Department of Health and state attorney general’s office announcing plans for an investigation.
Coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and nursing home deaths have been a major focus on the state’s response to the pandemic, with several outbreaks that have lead to deaths in downstate nursing homes. Statewide, there have been more than 3,500 deaths in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said Saturday that the county-owned Shaker Place Rehabilitation and Nursing Center has had 39 residents test positive for the illness, along with 15 staff members. There have been three deaths at the facility.
McCoy called for more transparency from private adult care facilities. “It’s a national issue, so they have to realize there’s a lot of interest going on with our most vulnerable residents,” he said on Saturday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who at times during the COVID crisis has come down hard on nursing homes that have had outbreaks, struck a more philosophical note during his daily briefing on Saturday, saying nursing homes are already highly regulated by the state, even if they are privately only.
“This crisis overwhelmed the nursing homes. No one is to blame,” he said.
— Cuomo said the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state is continuing to decline, though there are still about 1,100 new hospital admissions per day. The total number of deaths went up, though, from 422 on Thursday to 437 on Friday. There have now been 16,599 deaths statewide.
— Criteria for who can get tested for COVID-19 is being expanded. Those qualifying will include will include frontline workers, even if they show no symptoms. The expanded criteria mean all first responders, health care workers and essential employees — a category that ranges from grocery workers to dental hygenists — to be tested for COVID-19, even if they aren’t symptomatic.
— The state’s 5,000 independent pharmacists will be authorized to become test collection sites. Participating pharmacists can collect tests, but the tests would need to be sent to a state-certified lab for results. The state is testing about 20,000 people per day, and it looking to double that.
— County and state officials updated their case totals. Albany County now has 899 total cases, Schenectady County, 414 cases, and Saratoga County 316 cases. Saratoga County also announced its 12th day — a 72-year-old man from Halfmoon. Montgomery County has 46 cases, and Schoharie County, 33.
— Ellis Medicine in Schenectady said it tested 71 people for COVID-19 infections Friday, as part of a community testing initiative with Schenectady County. Testing will resume Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at William Keane Elementary School, 1252 Albany St. If it rains, the test site will move to Ellis’ McClellan Street Campus. No prescriptions or insurance coverage are required.
— The state Canal Corp. said the state canal system will not open as scheduled on May 15, due to suspension of nonessential construction and maintenance activities. It is considering opening the canals on a limited basis for regional use, without operation of the locks.