April 27, 2020
From Steuben Co:
The COVID-19 clusters at three nursing homes in Steuben County appear to have become more stable,
county officials said at a press briefing held at 2 p.m. Friday at the county Office of Emergency Services in Bath. Steuben officials also pledged to continue to act promptly in the event of any new reports at area nursing homes. “We continue to monitor daily,” county Public Health Director Darlene Smith said. “In the event of another report in a nursing home we would advocate and facilitate for universal testing of residents and staff.”
The clusters, first reported out by the Steuben Public Health department, involved 46 staff and residents at Hornell Gardens in Hornell. Other clusters were reported by Elderwood in Hornell and the Fred & Harriett Taylor Nursing Home in Bath. The clustered outbreaks have taken a toll – out of the 33 deaths reported by Steuben Public Health Friday, 24 are nursing-home related. Smith outlined the steps her staff took after the initial reports, saying at the request of Steuben Public Health, the
state Department of Health (DOH) initially conducted tests to determine how widespread the virus was at one of the facilities. The University of Rochester and St. James Mercy Hospital provided tremendous support to facilitate universal testing.
When results indicated 46 people, including staff, at Hornell Gardens were positive, the state worked with facility owners to move non-COVID residents to another facility in Seneca County. Steuben officials brief press on COVID-19 outbreaks in local nursing homes continued There have been no cases reported by any other nursing homes in the county besides the three facilities noted, she said.
While nursing homes, hospitals and the Bath VA are not regulated by the county, their representatives are in daily communication with the county team assembled in Bath, county Manager Jack Wheeler said.
While Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies provided by the state, with local distribution by the county Office of Emergency Services are limited, there have been no reports from any local nursing home they have run out, Wheeler said.
Protocols for PPE use, as well as staffing and patient care, remain under state DOH guidance, he said.
“And I want to be clear,” he said. “The (state) Department of Health remains a critical partner in our work here in the county.” Smith said her department is concerned the state is allowing COVID-positive patients to be cared for by asymptomatic COVID-positive staff, but added the matter is out of county control. The state DOH remains a critical partner in Steuben’s efforts to curb the virus, she added.
She said the county is prepared to act in the event of another outbreak.
State Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats thanked the county leadership and pledged the continued support of his colleagues, as did state Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes, R-Caledonia. Byrnes, who represents hard-hit Hornell in the state Assembly, praised Hornell City Mayor John Buckley’s efforts. Byrnes and O’Mara issued a joint statement thanking county and local leaders and stating they “continue to be
very concerned about the health and safety of residents and staff. It is imperative that we take care of our most vulnerable citizens and loved ones.”
Buckley later credited the cooperation between all those involved with the investigation and remediation. “The collective advocacy as a result of this partnership has been helpful in coordinating and assisting with resources, as well as direct oversight being provided by DOH to ensure our loved ones are protected against this virus to the best of our ability,” he said. “We appreciate the community’s involvement and communication as we work together and turn over every stone to fight COVID-19 in the City of Hornell.” County Public Health Director Darlene Smith said the response of communities in Steuben to the virus has been steadfast throughout. “We are so grateful for St. James, the U of R, our staff, volunteers, and school nurses who stepped up to help with the COVID testing,” she said. “The community has been great. We have people making masks, dropping off hospital gowns. I just can’t thank them all enough.