What we know about one of CT’s deadliest recent nursing home COVID outbreaks

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The nearly 100 COVID infections and eight deaths at Litchfield County nursing home could be one of Connecticut’s largest and deadliest outbreaks since the onset of the pandemic.

The nearly 100 COVID infections and eight deaths at Litchfield County nursing home could be one of Connecticut’s largest and deadliest outbreaks since the onset of the pandemic.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

The nearly 100 COVID infections and eight deaths at Geer Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Canaan could be one of Connecticut’s largest and deadliest recent outbreaks in the nearly two-year pandemic.

Officials with the facility said the worst of the outbreak appears to be over with few active cases still remaining.

Here’s what we know about the outbreak:

When were the first cases reported?

Officials with the facility said the first cases surfaced on Sept. 30 when a staff member contracted the virus. According to reports from the state on COVID-19 infections in nursing homes, cases started to pick up through October.

Cases continued through the month into November, according to reports from the state and notifications from the facility.

How many people were infected?

All told, 89 people were infected during the seven-week outbreak. According to the facility, there were 67 residents and 22 staff members who tested positive for COVID-19.

Eight of the residents died and 56 fully recovered. All 22 staff members recovered and have since returned to work, according to the facility.

How did the nursing home respond?

Following a rise in cases among residents and staff, the nursing home initially prohibited outside visitors — a common step taken to control the spread of the virus.

The facility also conducted contact tracing to determine how and where the virus had spread. A comprehensive round of testing was done of staff and residents, as well, according to the facility.

Were residents and staff vaccinated?

Officials with the nursing home said that nearly all residents and staff at the facility have been vaccinated against COVID-19 for months.

Kevin O’Connell, the chief executive, said that when vaccines were first available, the facility was quick to reach about a 95 percent vaccination rate for staff and residents.

Of the 89 infected with COVID, O’Connell said 87 were fully vaccinated.

It was not immediately clear if it was staff or residents who were not vaccinated when they contracted the virus.

Did they receive boosters?

O’Connell said the facility had planned to provide boosters to staff and residents before the outbreak, but it was put on hold when cases surfaced. Regulations require the facility to wait 14 days after the last confirmed case before administering booster shots.

While waiting for the outbreak to end, the facility has planned a flu vaccination clinic for the coming week.

Here’s what remains unclear:

When will the outbreak end?

There are still three active COVID-19 cases at the facility. O’Connell said last week that new testing could show that those cases have been resolved by as early as Monday. If they come back negative and no one else tests positive, the outbreak will be over.

Have state health officials been involved?

When asked about the outbreak, the state Department of Public Health officials said they had personnel on site at the nursing facility. They did not clarify what role the personnel had taken in response to the outbreak.

It also remains unclear how officials began tracking the situation. Following the roll out of the vaccine program, outbreaks of COVID-19 dropped substantially.

Geer said the state conducted an inspection. That inspection report was not immediately available.

The Torrington Area Health District, which operates in a region including Canaan, said it had minimal involvement in responding to the outbreak.

“When we learned of the situation, our contact tracer reached out to them and offered to help if they needed it. That was the extent of our involvement,” said Robert Rubbo, the health district’s director.

Who has died?

While the facility has said eight people have died, none have been publicly identified.

What caused the outbreak?

It is not clear how the outbreak reached these levels at a facility in which nearly everyone was vaccinated. However, the vaccine does not prevent all infections. Breakthrough cases, those happening in people who are fully vaccinated, have been on the rise in Connecticut.

O’Connell said he believes this is a situation of waning immunity. Some research shows that the vaccine loses its effectiveness over time, and those living in congregate settings were among the first vaccinated.