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Visitors once again welcome at the Lewis County Health System nursing home -- for now

Watertown Daily Times - 6/12/2021

Jun. 12—LOWVILLE — Two weeks with no positive COVID-19 tests for residents or staff allowed the Lewis County nursing home to open to visitors eager to be with their loved ones again. Another small outbreak of scabies wasn't enough to close those doors the following day.

Lewis County Health System's residential facility announced Monday via its "broadblast" notification system, in-person visits could begin the following day.

"We are happy to report that there are no new positive COVID-19 cases over the weekend," the broadblast read. "In compliance with New York State regulations, all residents were tested today and all test results were negative."

But on Tuesday, a broadblast informed resident families that two staff members tested positive for scabies and precautionary treatment had already begun on the first floor. The second floor followed Wednesday, the fourth floor Thursday and the third floor Friday.

Even with all that, no visitor shutdown was called.

"The staff members wore appropriate personal protective equipment, so thankfully, this means we do not have to close for in-person visitation," the blast said. "However, when visiting a loved one, all visitors will be required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, this includes gloves, a gown and a facility issued face mask."

As with most other residential facilities, in-person visits at the nursing home have been on a roller coaster of closings and reopenings after they were initially restored on March 29 following updated state guidelines, but the scabies infestation added some twists and turns to the issue.

— On April 12, visitation was suspended because of a COVID-19 positive testing staff member. The three floors that had no positive tests for staff or residents resumed visitation.

— On April 21, the first floor was closed to outside visitors. COVID-19 was not responsible. Scabies was.

— On April 27, all facility visitors were stopped to allow for preventative scabies treatments for all residents and staff after the disease was confirmed.

— On April 30, there were no positive COVID-19 tests facility-wide which would have, under different circumstances, triggered the renewal of in-person visits, but doors stayed closed as a precaution to prevent further spread of the scabies-causing mites.

— On May 5, after everyone living and working in the facility was treated for scabies and no more cases emerged, all floors except the first were opened to visitors again.

— On May 7, the first floor followed suit.

— On May 11, facility administrators said that while there continued to be no new COVID-19 cases so visitors could continue, some visitors refusing to wear masks and follow other safety mandates while they were in the facility could cause visitation to be suspended again if it continues.

— On May 18, visitation was again suspended because of positive coronavirus tests for two staff members.

— On May 24, another staff member tested positive, resetting the 14-day clock that requires no new cases of the virus in either staff or residents for 14 days before visitors can be allowed back.

— On May 27, facility management acknowledged how destabilizing the situation had been for loved ones with a blast that recognized "the frustration that families have been feeling related to the Department of Health safety regulations concerning COVID-19, especially in regard to the current visitation guidelines."

They were encouraged to make their concerns known to their county legislators.

The broadblast updates are sent directly to resident family members and are posted on the Health System's website.

As of Friday, with the final scabies treatments completed and no new COVID-19 cases found, visitors willing to follow safety measures are welcome to visit their people at the Lewis County nursing home soon — before things change.


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