WESTFIELD, NJ — Of the 13 people from to die from coronavirus in Westfield, six of them lived at the two long-term care centers in town, the mayor reported.
At the Westfield Center, a facility of Genesis HealthCare, the facility’s chief medical officer said in a statement provided to TAPinto Westfield Monday that 25 residents and seven staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and four of the residents to test positive have died.
“We continue to follow to the letter the direction of the New Jersey Department of Health in an effort to contain and minimize the spread of the virus,” the chief medical officer, Richard Feifer, said. “We are also adhering to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines and recommended protocols.”
Sunrise Senior Living declined to provide a count of the number of cases and deaths that have impacted the facility.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who are impacted by COVID-19,” said Denise Falco, regional vice president of operations at Sunrise Senior Living in an emailed statement. “As we fight this pandemic together, Sunrise remains resolute in our efforts to do all we possibly can to protect the health and safety of our residents and team members.”
Falco said that in February Sunrise Senior Living “significantly expanded” an existing program of infection control by providing full personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, goggles, face shields and gowns to its staff.
The facility has stopped communal dining, is prohibiting non-essential visitors and is shifting to individual “resident engagement activities,” among other measures, Falco said.
Mayor Shelley Brindle in Saturday’s COVID-19 update said the town is working with the centers, but said that it would be up to the facilities to release the actual numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths at each one.
“We are actively engaged with these centers, but the actual case numbers are indeed higher than we’re able to report based on place of residence,” Brindle said. “Our outreach and assistance will of course continue as long as necessary, although decisions about the release of any widespread COVID-19 activity would need to come directly from these facilities as privately run businesses.”
Brindle noted that the rates of COVID-19 infection and death are a concern at long-term care centers across the nation.
“Our Health Department is in daily contact with the management of these facilities within Westfield to offer ongoing guidance and track outbreaks,” she said. “In addition, our Office of Emergency Management, run by [Police Chief Christopher] Battiloro assists them as needed with any supply issues they communicate.”
Brindle over the weekend issued a call for residents to help sew protective gowns for the local long-term care centers, which are among the medical facilities across the nation to experience shortages of personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lori Mayer, spokeswoman for the Westfield Center, said the facility would he pleased to benefit from the home sewed gowns should the effort take off. While as of Monday, she said, the facility has been able to obtain an adequate supply as Genesis Healthcare is shifting personal protective equipment from facility to facility, the company is using all options to secure more protective gear.
“All healthcare providers around the country are significantly challenged with PPE shortages, particularly face masks and gowns,” Mayer said. “This poses an increasing problem in nursing homes as this pandemic continues to expand.”
The Long-Term Care Facilities Hotline managed by the State Department of Health, can be reached at 1-800-792-9770.
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