SHELTON — The coronavirus has ravaged the city’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities, with more than 100 positive cases and 56 of Shelton’s 57 deaths.

There has been at least one reported COVID-19-related death in each of Shelton’s four nursing homes, according to Public Safety Director Michael Maglione, and there are residents and employees who have tested positive over the past few weeks.

Data released by the governor’s office Thursday showed that three city nursing homes have some of the highest numbers of COVID-19-related deaths in the state. Gardner Heights Health Care Center, with 130 licensed beds, had 42 positive cases and 15 deaths; Apple Shelton Lakes, with 106 beds, had 40 positives and 13 deaths; and Bishop-Wicke Health and Rehabilitation, with 120 beds, had 22 positives and 12 deaths. Hewitt Health and Rehabilitation Center, with 160 beds, is listed as having four positive tests with no deaths.

Maglione said that he learned Friday morning of the death of a Hewitt resident from COVID-19-related complications.

Nursing Homes in Connecticu... by Helen Bennett on Scribd

The number of deaths is truly 52, said Maglione on Thursday, since some of the names were listed under past home addresses, rather than the nursing home in which they had lived. There have been no fatalities at any of the city’s assisted living facilities.

Since then, another four deaths have been recorded.

For public health surveillance, laboratory-confirmed COVID-19-associated deaths are defined as patients who tested positive for COVID-19 around the time of death, said Naugatuck Valley Health Director Jessica Stelmaszek, adding that this is not a determination of the cause of death.

Elizabeth Bemis of Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation said the facility has worked in partnership with the state of Connecticut, and under the recommendations of the state’s Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to institute their policies since early March.

"There is no doubt that COVID-19 virus is taking a toll on nursing home residents, their families and the dedicated staff providing care," said Bemis. “We have been by our residents’ side when they have needed us the most and the efforts of our caregiving teams have been tremendous.”

Bemis said on April 7, DPH conducted a COVID-19-focused survey at Bishop Wicke Health and Rehabilitation Center related to implementing proper infection and control practices to prevent the development and transmission of COVID-19.

“We were found to have zero deficiencies and the highest rating possible,” said Bemis. “This is due to the dedication of our highly skilled and professional staff who do their part to aggressively prevent and mitigate the spread while delivering compassionate care under challenging circumstances.”

Attempts to reach representatives with Apple Rehab — which operates Gardner Heights Health Care Center, Apple Shelton Lakes and Hewitt Health and Rehabilitation Center — on Friday were unsuccessful.

Maglione said each nursing home in Shelton is considered a “hot spot,” and he remains in constant contact with each operation regarding its virus mitigation plans. While the operations are privately owned, Maglione said he keeps in contact because the city’s first responders often attend calls at each site.

Echo Hose Ambulance Corps volunteers, when responding to a call, wear full protective gear, with face masks, plastic face shields and special gowns.

In the event of a fire alarm, Maglione said, only one or two firefighters — in full fire protective gear with self-contained breathing apparatus — would enter the building. He said that police, if called, also wear masks and gloves on site.

“We also offer support with donations,” said Maglione, adding that the city has donated plastic face shields and homemade face masks to each of the nursing homes. “Beyond that, there is nothing more we can do.”

Through Thursday, there have been 293 positive tests, with one COVID-19-related death outside of a nursing home. Maglione said there are 139 locations throughout the city, not including the nursing homes or assisted living facilities, with an individual who has tested positive.

“This is throughout the city at this point,” added Maglione.

Area health district officials are continuing to urge residents to stay home as much as possible and practice social distancing by keeping six feet between you and others if you must go out.

“It is evident that we remain in the acceleration phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning we are consistently receiving an increasing number of cases,” Stelmaszek said. “With an increasing number of cases, we can expect that we will continue to see an increased number of COVID-19-related deaths. We expect the Valley cases to continue to rise over the next few days.”

To minimize the amount of people who can be exposed, Stelmaszek said families should designate one person per household to do grocery shopping or other necessary errands. Those going out in public should wear a cloth face covering, she added.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com