By TOYA CORNELIOUS, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER
April 2, 2020 at 1:00 AM
Along with local hospitals and the rest of our nation, CareOne is braced for the unprecedented needs of caring for COVID-19 patients. To confront the virus head-on, CareOne is actively working to fight this pandemic, developing clinical protocols that have allowed two of its centers to become COVID-capable care units. With the New Jersey Department of Health reporting today that 80 post-acute centers in state have COVID-positive residents, the Commissioner ordered all post-acute centers to accept medically-stable COVID-positive patients discharged from local hospitals. In essence, all post-acute care centers in the state need to become capable of caring for COVID patients.
CareOne at New Milford (Woodcrest) is an example of such a COVID-capable center, not by design but out of necessity. Beginning in mid-March, some residents and staff started showing signs of respiratory illness, which led us to cohort the third floor and 2 other smaller units for positive cases in the facility. Although we expect these numbers to rise, we can report that as of March 31st, physicians have confirmed 16 residents and 6 staff members to have tested positive for COVID-19. We are actively testing patients and awaiting results, and screening at higher levels than CDC guidelines. We have also confirmed five of the residents who passed tested positive, and we are investigating other passings.
The use of our third floor to cohort residents was done in strict adherence to guidelines issued by the CDC and Department of Health. Our experience at New Milford is similar to what we’ve learned at other centers. First, protocols are simpler to adhere to when all patients are presumed to be positive in one floor, or one facility, and require similar treatments. Second, it’s more effective for the staff to comply with strict PPE protocols when those guidelines are uniform throughout the facility.
COVID-19 cases are widespread throughout the Tri-State area. New York City has been severely impacted and our close proximity puts all of Northern New Jersey, particularly Bergen County, at increased risk. Local hospitals are reporting a surge of patients every day and emergency departments are overflowing. Although testing has become more available recently, the scarcity of testing in the early weeks of the pandemic led to incomplete information. Persons not meeting strict testing criteria were often sent home or discharged from hospitals without the benefit of a laboratory finding.
Indeed, we have learned that the onset of this disease presents in ways unknown just a month ago, which is why our tracking mechanisms include criteria which exceed CDC guidelines. We have the benefit of a highly skilled Infectious Disease physician who is working closely with our center to mitigate the risks to patients and staff. We are offering treatment options to patients and staff which is based on the latest science.
We are battle scarred but not battle weary. In fact with supplemental staff being deployed, we are stronger and even more prepared. CareOne at New Milford intends to support our Bergen County hospitals in dealing with this pandemic and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our hospital partners to fight and win this war.
We know that everyone in the New Milford community has felt the impact of COVID-19. Rest assured that the safety and well-being of our residents and the New Milford community is of the utmost importance to us. You have our commitment that we will take all measures to protect you. CareOne has been and will continue to remain in regular communication with State and local officials. We express our heartfelt gratitude to the Borough of New Milford for their support during this difficult time.