Families frustrated by COVID-19 outbreak at North Country nursing home

Three people are now dead in just a few days at the Essex Center.
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 21, 2020 at 10:06 AM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (WCAX) - A COVID outbreak at a North Country nursing home this week has now claimed three lives.

The Essex Center in Elizabethtown saw it’s first COVID-related death this week, the first in the county. And two additional deaths associated with the virus were announced Thursday evening. One was at the hospital, another patient had been discharged from the Essex Center to their home in Clinton County. So far, 24 residents tested positive for the virus.

I went to the facility Thursday looking for an update on how this happened. I was unable to get that question answered but the health department said it's something they are working to figure out.

I was able to speak to family members with loved ones inside. They are furious over how this situation was handled.

"Right there, I said, oh, God. I'm going to lose the best thing in my life, you know, which is my mother and I don't want to see that," Gary Giveans said.

Giveans was visiting his 90-year-old mother Thursday at her window at Essex Center. She was having a telehealth appointment with her doctor. There, she and her son found out that she tested positive for COVID-19.

That was the first that Giveans heard about the coronavirus being inside the facility. He visits her daily.

"They say they are working with families on this, notifying families and talking to them," Giveans said. "They never told me. Why didn't they tell me when I was here that she had it?"

Neither representatives from the Essex Center nor the Essex County Health Department were available for an on-camera interview but in a statement from the facility, they said they have added a COVID-19-only section inside to help stop the spread and will continue a “no questions asked” screening and testing at the front door for staff members.

The Health Department said, as of Wednesday, there were no positive tests coming from staff members and that staffers are tested weekly.

There have been no visitors allowed for in-person visits, only visits by window.

"It's not family bringing it in because nobody is allowed in there. It has to be a worker or something," Giveans said. "They said they tested their workers and they were all negative. Now, come on. Then, how is it getting in there?"

Giveans isn't the only one frustrated with the handling of this situation. Another family wanted their story told but wanted to remain anonymous. They said their loved one was discharged on Monday. They still have not been notified of COVID in the facility.

Two days after his discharge, he was at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital and intubated. He died there 24 hours later.

As for Giveans, he says what’s next for him is trying to find out more about how this happened from the director of Essex Center and he’s telling his mom to try to do what’s best for her health: stay positive and be strong.

"I pray to God that nothing happens to her," he said. "That I can take her home where she belongs, alright?"

I reached out to the local hospitals to see if they are prepared to handle a surge in hospitalizations from the outbreak. They say they are all working together and are ready to care for the residents, should they need it.

The Essex County Health Department is holding a Facebook Live event on Friday at 2 p.m. to talk about the outbreak.

Public Health Director Linda Beers will explain the department’s response to the cases at Essex Center and take questions.

WCAX will let you know what happens.

Related Story:

North Country senior care facility sees surge in COVID cases

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