FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: December 3, 2020
OGDENSBURG – For most of us who do not work in a post-acute care environment, trying to understand and wrap your arms around something like an outbreak of COVID-19 may seem much like trying to nail gelatin to a tree. For the staff and leadership at United Helpers, this is something they have been planning and strategizing for months, working with area hospitals, medical and lab professionals, and countless others.
“Since March of this year, we have spoken with the Department of Health, Public Health and other agencies on a regular basis. From the onset of the outbreak at our Ogdensburg site communication has increased on an almost daily basis,” said Stacey Cannizzo, Vice President of Quality Improvement and Clinical Services. “While no agency can say that they are completely prepared for something like a pandemic, the United Helpers’ teams have worked diligently to put in every effort to plan appropriately for an outbreak.”
On November 21, United Helpers Rehabilitation and Senior Care in Ogdensburg reported its first positive case since the pandemic began. To date, there have been 135 cases of COVID-19 reported at the campus, with 51 staff members and 84 residents testing positive. Currently, there are two people hospitalized and seven deaths have been reported.
On November 29th, the United Helpers Rehabilitation and Senior Care in Canton reported five new cases of the virus, with two staff members and three residents testing positives. As of 9:00 am this morning, Canton reports 9 cases of COVID-19 reported at the skilled nursing complex, with 2 staff members and 7 residents testing positive. There is currently one positive staff member reported in the Assisted Living complex, bringing the campus total to ten active cases. Currently, no one is hospitalized and no deaths have been reported at the Canton campus.
As soon as a positive case is detected, protocols for increased personal protective equipment (PPE) and isolation are put into place.
“We are very fortunate to have sufficient PPE on hand at all of our complexes,” Cannizzo said. “We continue to receive expedited shipments from suppliers and are considered to be a high priority delivery point due to the current outbreak.”
A recent order with McKesson included requests for 50 thousand gowns, 20 thousand surgical masks, 5 thousand face shields, one thousand N95 masks, and additional testing kits. According to Cannizzo, many of these items have already been received or are currently in transit.
When asked how the United Helpers teams were working to stave the spread of the virus, Cannizzo explained that technique is one-part testing, another part isolation and transmission-based precautions.
“When an outbreak occurs, residents and staff are immediately tested and those that were originally tested positive are put on transmission-based precautions and isolated. In fact, once our team identified COVID was in our building, transmission-based precautions were initiated throughout the facility,” Cannizzo said. “This means that we are using increased PPE, such as N95 masks, face shields, and changing PPE between Resident encounters. We are also managing cohorting efforts to keep Residents that have tested positive away from those who have not.”
Cannizzo explained a lag time in obtaining testing results can make it difficult to immediately identify all of the residents and staff members that may be positive for the virus.
Residents and staff at the Ogdensburg and Canton campus are currently receiving repeated serial testing to accurately monitor the environment for positive cases and prompt action.
While area hospitals and laboratories are working to accelerate resulting rates, the sheer volume of tests they are processing is staggering.
“Testing at the Ogdensburg campus equates to roughly 700 tests per week and approximately 350 for our Canton campus,” Cannizzo said. “A thousand tests per week is an incredible number.”
Those numbers only represent United Helpers. There are five skilled facilities in the area that must test residents and staff each week.
Dr. Andrew Williams, County Medical Director; Canton-Potsdam Hospital; and Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center are credited with helping to expedite the resulting timeline wherever possible.
“It will take a few rounds of testing before we understand exactly how many individuals were affected by the recent outbreak,” Cannizzo said. “We continue to follow protocol and we are profoundly grateful for the outpouring of community support that we have received.”
United Helpers continues to work closely with and adhere to the guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the NYS Department of Health, NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), St. Lawrence County Public Health, area hospitals, and other agencies.
For additional information, please visit www.unitedhelpers.org/COVID.