Home » Sharon Millerton News » Pathogens Spread: Schools, nursing homes and hospitals on alert

Pathogens Spread: Schools, nursing homes and hospitals on alert

“The protective measures people had been taking up until this point are decreasing. This is a big concern.” — Dr. Mark Marshall, vice president of medical affairs at Sharon hospital

SHARON — The flu is back, coronavirus is circulating and respiratory viruses are targeting the young. This stew of sickness has schools, nursing homes and hospitals bracing for a long, hard third winter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we are seeing is that the protective measures people had been taking up until this point are decreasing,” said Dr. Mark Marshall, vice president of medical affairs at Sharon Hospital, referring to masking, meticulous hand washing and social distancing. “This is a big concern.”

Complicating matters, he said, vaccines are waning and the public is eschewing flu shots and boosters.

“It’s allowing the spread of respiratory illnesses. During the first big surge of COVID, we saw almost no influenza.”

The internist said he is concerned that the flu is returning “with a vengeance” and the public will face several dangerous pathogens all at once.

“The flu season is earlier than expected,” said Marshall, partly because of increased social activities and waning immunity. People who were used to getting seasonal flu shots or even the virus itself, he said, had built up antibodies. But that has not happened since the flu skipped two seasons.

Also concerning is a rapid rise in respiratory illness, such as RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, a childhood lung infection that can cause severe illness, he explained.

“There has been a huge spike in RSV this year, earlier and bigger than we’ve seen previously.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting a surge of RSV in Connecticut as well as New York and New Jersey. The surge is so severe that Connecticut Children’s Hospital in Hartford has considered calling in the National Guard.

Children under the age of 2 are especially vulnerable to serious illness from the virus, which causes swelling and secretions in their small airways, said Marshall.

Youngsters, he said, also tend to be vectors for respiratory illnesses and can easily spread viruses to family members, and parents will then take it into the workplace.

A ‘fluid’ situation at Geer

In recent weeks, the Geer Village Senior Community in North Canaan has seen an uptick of COVID-19 among staff and residents, as well as an outbreak of respiratory illness among residents on the nursing and rehab center’s second floor.

As of Friday, Oct. 21, 19 residents and six staff members had tested positive. Since mid-October there has been a gradual uptick, and all units at the nursing center now have residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Geer officials.

“It’s important to note that many of these people were asymptomatic or had mild to moderate symptoms and are showing improvement daily,” said CEO Kevin O’Connell, who noted that the situation “remains fluid.”

O’Connell said he has been in close communication with the Connecticut Department of Public Health Epidemiology office and is following all recommended mitigation and testing strategies and has implemented universal use of N95 masks and eye protection for all staff in resident care areas, an added mitigation strategy.

Visitation at Geer remains open, but O’Connell advises anyone who is sick or has been exposed to anyone with known or suspected COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses postpone their visit.

The COVID-19 positivity rate in Litchfield County, he explained, “remains high, around 11.18%.”

In Salisbury, the Noble Horizons Senior Community is “down to two or three individuals who will likely be off precautions tomorrow,” Administrator Bill Pond reported last week.

Outbreak reported at Salisbury Central School

An outbreak of COVID-19 cases among seventh-grade students at Salisbury Central School was reported on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Administrators believe it was tied to social events, held privately, over the weekend.

“I think what we are seeing in the region is kind of typical of what we’re seeing in the state,” said Lisa Carter Region One’s superintendent of schools. “It’s less than 10%, but I can say that we do have COVID in our schools,” she said.

Carter said all of Region One had not had a positive case of COVID since the beginning of October, so the recent outbreak in Salisbury caught everyone off guard. There was no data that supported that school-sponsored social events should be canceled, she said. “The high school had its homecoming dance on Friday [Oct. 21], and we didn’t have a single case reported.”

Carter said she does not feel that the recent outbreak is cause for alarm. “We will be on the lookout, we have COVID tests for students, and we will monitor the situation. We know what the virus is and how it works, and parents know to test if their child has signs of illness and to keep them at home.”

Unlike early in the pandemic, she said, there is no longer an option for remote learning. “The best tool we have is to communicate when we do have these clusters.”

Sharon Hospital braces
for higher numbers

Sharon Hospital has had surges of COVID-19 throughout the summer, with an average of one or two positive cases daily, but hospital officials are now “bracing for higher numbers.

“Going into the cold season, it’s not surprising to see an increase,” especially as new variants form, said Marshall. “We’ve identified a number of people who were asymptomatic and admitted for other reasons who tested positive.” What is also concerning, he said, is that they are presenting sicker than usual.

With winter holidays looming, Marshall is urging people to make sure everyone in the family gets a flu shot, and a booster, as soon as possible, and that they return to some of the protective habits they developed while fighting COVID-19 in its early stages.

“The good news is that this year’s flu vaccine should be highly protective.”

More Information

TriCorner News

Copyright The Lakeville Journal
PO Box 1688, Lakeville, CT 06039
All Rights Reserved

Policies, including Privacy and Ethics