NH health officials address COVID outbreak at vaccinated nursing home

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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UNITY, N.H. (WCAX) - For the second time in only a couple of months, a nursing home in Sullivan County, New Hampshire, is dealing with a COVID outbreak. It has state officials pleading with the public to help prevent the community spread of the virus.

There are currently just two nursing home outbreaks across the state of New Hampshire and both are in our region. One is up north in Coos County and the other is at Sullivan County Health Care in Unity. “The biggest thing is not being able to see family and loved ones,” said Ted Purdy, Sullivan County Health’s administrator.

He says a resident at the nursing home tested positive about a week ago. A day later, a staff member also got back a positive test. Now, 10 residents and four staff have contracted the virus. It’s the second time in recent months that the virus has made its way through the facility. “We were COVID free for about 11 months until January,” Purdy said.

“I think we were really hoping that we were over the hill and on to smooth sailing, so it is a little demoralizing,” said April Bartley, the facility’s director of nursing.

Adding to the concern is that 92% of the 115 residents have been fully vaccinated, including nine of the 10 who have tested positive. “We are encouraged by the fact that the people who tested positive at this point seem to be mildly ill,” Bartley said. About 75% of employees have received the shot.

The majority of the residents received the Pfizer shots, which means about 10% of vaccinated residents and staff have become infected. That’s in line with Pfizer’s expected efficacy rate.

It’s not known how the virus was reintroduced, but staff says that will remain a possibility as long as there continues to be community spread. They are pleading for everyone to get the vaccine. “We need to get to that herd immunity. That magic number in the community of 70%,” Bartley said.

“Because it is really the community spread that impacts our ability to prevent the infection within the nursing facility,” Purdy said.

During the last outbreak back in January, there were nearly 180 cases. Staff says they were able to get through the incident back then and they are confident they will get through this one as well.

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