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Staffers test positive for COVID at NY nursing home facing outbreak

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 4:58 PM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. (WCAX) - Four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at a North Country nursing home facing an outbreak among residents. Our Kelly O'Brien has new numbers and new details.

“This has rocked our small and tight-knit communities,” Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers said.

In a 22-minute Facebook Live virtual press conference, Beers answered questions about the outbreak and the health department's involvement.

She says the health department and the Essex Center first learned that COVID was in the Elizabethtown facility on Monday, the same day as the first death from the outbreak, which was also the first coronavirus death in the county.

"A person had become ill, was taken to CVPH, CVPH does rapid testing on everyone that is admitted there and the person was positive," Beers said.

Staff members at the Essex Center are required to be tested weekly but there are no requirements to test the residents living there.

"Tested based on symptoms and on exposure to staff," Beers said.

She says at this time there are 23 residents positive for COVID-19-- one is in the hospital and three have died. Another 17 residents are awaiting their test results.

Beers says all staff members were tested Thursday and four came back positive.

"Do I know of anybody who has tested positive that's a staff member that came from outside the area? The answer is yes, that's true," Beers said.

The facility is facing a staffing shortage, so they have hired staff from outside of Essex County and outside of the state.

Beers said state regulations say those staffers did not need to quarantine because they are considered essential, but they did need to get a test within 24 hours of being there. The employees could work while they waited for the results of their tests.

Beers says that state regulation has since become stricter.

She says the Essex Center is making changes, too, saying they will now require traveling staffers from restricted states to quarantine and not work until they have their results.

"Nobody will be allowed to work without the test result, the negative test result, before going on to the floors or working with staff," Beers said.

Beers says they are continuing with contact tracing for the outbreak. They only reach out to people who were in close contact with the infected person within 48 hours of the positive test.

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