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COVID Clusters Identified At Heritage Sites

Since last week, about 30 residents and staff between Heritage Green and Heritage Village have tested positive for COVID-19. P-J file photo

About 30 residents and staff at two Heritage nursing facilities in Chautauqua County have recently tested positive for COVID-19.

One resident and two to three employees between Heritage Green in Greenhurst and Heritage Village in Gerry were found to have the virus following routine testing. That prompted the deployment of rapid testing starting on Friday, netting about two dozen additional cases, said Lisa Haglund, Heritage president and CEO.

Eighty percent of the confirmed cases are among staff, with 20% among residents at the two locations. Haglund said about 40% of those recently testing positive for the coronavirus have been showing symptoms; two residents are considered to be “high risk” for spread, meaning they are showing multiple symptoms with Heritage working in collaboration with the local medical director and UPMC Chautauqua.

Many residents — not just at Heritage but at adult care locations across the country — already have been given their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Haglund said those who have tested positive have been separated from other residents.

“We have been prepared to stay ahead of the curve and to keep it out,” Haglund said, later adding, “We think we caught them all. Of course, you’ve got a 14-day waiting period.”

Heritage has seen outbreaks of the virus at locations outside its Western New York footprint. However, these are the first clusters identified at its Chautauqua County facilities — with only a handful of cases reported since the pandemic began in March 2020.

“I really just want to thank our employees locally,” Haglund said. “I give credit to the COVID task force who have worked to stay ahead of the game.”

With the clusters largely involving staff, day-to-day operations have been impacted.

“It’s a huge strain on our current resources,” Haglund said. “In fact, we are currently looking to hire staff at all levels.”

Clusters of the virus have been reported at nursing and assisted living facilities throughout the county. As of late last week, 34 employees and 40 residents at Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Dunkirk were confirmed to have the virus. The facility had just one confirmed case during the pandemic, with the spike occurring in just the last couple of weeks.

“The safety and health of Chautauqua Nursing and Rehabilitation Center residents and staff is, and always has been, of paramount importance,” said Dawn M. Harsch, director of corporate communications for VestraCare, which owns the facility. “Throughout the pandemic, we have maintained open channels of communication with family members and worked diligently to meet staff education thresholds regarding important topics such as infection control, proper use of PPE, ways to stay safe outside of the workplace and more. These efforts, coupled with our evidence-based clinical practices, allow us to assess residents’ emergent needs and incorporate proactive measures into their care on a daily basis.”

The Magnolia, an assisted living facility in Frewsburg, reported in late December that many residents had tested positive, experiencing very minor COVID symptoms.

“This thing happened and it started with an employee in my kitchen whose mother is a nurse,” said Nick Ferreri, owner and president of The Magolia. “It had to have come from the hospital. I don’t know that for sure but I have to make that assumption. That’s all it takes.”

County health officials in October announced a COVID outbreak impacting dozens of residents at Tanglewood Manor and Memory Garden in West Ellicott.

According to federal data tracking the virus at nursing homes across the country, five residents at Absolut Care of Westfield have tested positive for the virus. The statistics are through Dec. 27.

At Gowanda Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, seven residents have reportedly tested positive for COVID.

However, it appears the virus has spread much more rapidly in Warren County nursing facilities. Federal data shows that the Rouse-Warren County Home, as of Dec. 27, had 116 confirmed cases, 46 suspected cases and 25 COVID-related deaths. At Warren Manor there have been 96 confirmed cases, 19 suspected cases and nine deaths. And at Corry Manor there have been 113 confirmed, 25 suspected and 15 deaths, according to the most recent data.

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