WATERTOWN — Two asymptomatic workers at the Samaritan Keep Home have tested positive for COVID-19.
Samaritan Health began testing staff and residents Monday at the long-term care facility, in compliance with a new state directive issued by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
Late Wednesday, Samaritan Health received notice that two staff members of the facility had tested positive. The staff members were asymptomatic, exhibited no outward signs, and were unaware they had the virus.
So far, 363 Samaritan Keep Home staff members have been tested. Of these, 263 workers are negative, two are positive, and 98 are waiting for results. Leslie DiStefano, Samaritan’s director of communication and public relations, said pending results are expected Friday, but this is entirely dependent on the lab.
To date, there have been 67 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County, with 63 having recovered, according to a release from the county’s Public Health Department. There have been 2,437 people tested in total in the county, with 2,370 tests coming back negative so far. Four people are in mandatory isolation, none are hospitalized, 26 are in precautionary quarantine and 30 are in mandatory quarantine.
“This isn’t a surprise; the more people you test, statistically you’ll see more positives,” Ms. DiStefano said of Samaritan Keep’s test results. “I think the numbers speak for themselves. It’s still a very good number percentage-wise, to have two positives out of hundreds of employees so far. We’re anxious to keep numbers low, keep staff and residents safe, and continue the good work we’re doing.”
The Samaritan Keep employees who have tested positive will quarantine at home for the recommended 14 days. The employees were not exposed to the disease to their knowledge, did not travel, had no symptoms and wore masks while working. Any residents or staff members those employees came in contact with will be notified and screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
Up until this point, no residents or staff of Samaritan’s long-term care facilities had tested positive. According to a release, Samaritan is taking this new development very seriously and following all state Department of Health directives regarding testing and contact tracing to minimize exposure.
“We’ve been doing a lot,” Ms. DiStefano said of safety measures implemented by Samaritan. “Even though these were asymptomatic, wearing things like a mask and washing hands helps to mitigate that, keeping it contained, so early masking for staff was a very important thing we did.”
Since March, numerous precautionary measures have been implemented at Samaritan’s two long-term care facilities, Samaritan Keep Home and Samaritan Summit Village, to ensure residents and staff remain safe. These efforts include:
temperature checks upon every entry; a series of screening questions; requiring face masks for all staff and vendors; practicing enhanced sanitization; masking residents if they leave the facility; and conducting resident temperature checks every eight hours.
All staff will be tested once or twice per week – depending on their scheduled number of shifts each week – to check for additional asymptomatic cases. As has been Samaritan’s policy since March, any employee showing symptoms will be tested immediately and will not be able to work.
“We’re definitely confident in what we have in place and the planning we have done,” Ms. DiStefano said. “If we do have residents test positive, we will put into place separate units to take care of them. This makes us realize that may come to fruition; it’s one thing to plan and another to execute, so we’re doing more planning.”
At this point, all Samaritan Keep Home residents have been tested and are awaiting additional results. According to a release from the hospital, Samaritan is confident the additional precautions staff have been taking, including wearing masks and regular, deep sanitization of the facility, have greatly helped limit exposure.
Samaritan says it is fully prepared to care for any resident who may have COVID-19, with a plan in place to separate residents and have fully trained staff care for them, should this become necessary. All Samaritan Summit Village staff members and residents will also be tested starting next week.
“We’ve been in constant contact with the families of residents, keeping them up to date with current information on our new website set up for them,” Ms. DiStefano said. “I think that communication has been really important, making sure families know what’s going on and have a way to contact us.”
Families wishing to learn more information about COVID-19 and long-term care may now visit http://www.samaritanhealth.com/covid-ltc.