New Paltz nursing-home residents, staff face holiday quarantine

It’ll be a gloomy Thanksgiving for the retirement communities in New Paltz this year. New Paltz’s two nursing homes are facing increases in positive tests among residents and staff, and one of them just experienced a death from the virus. In response, lockdown measures are being ramped up over the Thanksgiving holiday. Visitation except by “approved companions” had already been suspended in October, when a second wave of the pandemic became apparent.

The New Paltz Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing on Jansen Road reported on Monday, November 23 that during the past week a resident had died of Covid-19 in-house. Residents and staff had had seven new positive test results. And 22 in-house residents or staff members were “suspected” of having Covid-19. Statistical updates are posted daily on the facility website at https://facilities.centershealthcare.org/covid-stats.

Woodland Pond on North Putt Corners Road has been taking a proactive approach to transparency throughout the pandemic, with CEO Michelle Gramoglia making long and detailed informational posts at least once daily on the facility’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/woodlandpondnewpaltz. Live briefings to staff are also posted every few days on YouTube.

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The most recent of these updates as of press time on Monday bore especially sobering news, following a couple of weeks of adverse test results. Though none of them were symptomatic, Seven new staff members tested positive, though none of them were symptomatic. Two staff members from the Health Center retested positive; and one new resident – the first in the facility’s Independent Living complex – tested positive, along with her private-duty aide. “Symptom-free or not, we treat each case as if it were the real, legitimate thing. This is the appropriate and ethical thing to do,” said Gramoglia.

These developments, combined with the news from county health officials that the seven-day rolling average of new cases in Ulster County has exceeded three percent for the first time since last spring, led Gramoglia to close the Health Center’s dining room even for Thanksgiving Day, along with other strict infection control measures. Residents will be served all meals by staff in their rooms.

The new protocol is being described as “a cautionary pause for at least two weeks.” Through December 11, all residents are being asked to quarantine in their rooms or apartments, and all group activities have been canceled. The hair salon is closed, although residents may make use of the library and fitness center, alone and masked. They are also being permitted to walk alone and masked on the grounds and in the residential hallways.

Social visits between residents, as well as with outsiders, are being forbidden for the time being. While residents can’t legally be prevented from visiting loved ones or showing up for medical appointments off-campus, their quarantine clocks reset back to 14 days upon their return if they do. A Covid test is administered at the end of those 14 days, so add a few more for test results to come back.

Employees also have a grim holiday ahead, as they face “very clear expectations,” in one Woodland Pond representative’s words, to observe the quarantine to the greatest extent practicable. “We repeatedly ask staff and the members of their household to stay in when not at work. However, we cannot mandate that, nor monitor that,” Gramoglia noted in one of her posts. “We have more than 250 staff members coming and going, with all manner of situations at home (kids going to school, cohabitants coming and going from their own jobs, grocery shopping et cetera). We are vigilant and careful, and despite that, the virus attacks at random, and presents differently in all cases.”

The worst may be yet to come. “We are facing likely the hardest six to eight weeks yet, with fighting this pandemic. We have a responsibility to one another to lean into this,” Gramoglia said. She cited protocols being promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control and statements from many prominent public health experts urging Americans not to congregate for Thanksgiving dinner.

“The guidance is clear, and Woodland Pond’s expectation is the same as the guidance,” she said. “Your holiday should be spent with those people that reside in your household. This is a hard decision to make, but we owe this act of respect and kindness to our colleagues and our residents.”

Covid-19 statistics for the Woodland Pond campus are updated daily at www.wpatnp.org.