State faces ‘several critical weeks ahead,’ Meriden center to reopen for COVID-19 patients

reporter photo

The head of infectious diseases for Hartford HealthCare told reporters Monday new models show the state’s peak for COVID-19 cases will likely occur two weeks after the national model.

“We think we are going to hit the peak in Connecticut sometime at the end of April and the first week of May … ,” said Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer. “I think we have several critical weeks ahead...”

Hartford HealthCare teamed with epidemiologists from outside institutions. including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to draft a forecasting model based on current cases, demographics and social distancing. Despite the expected strain on intensive care units, Hartford HealthCare is confident it has the necessary personal protective equipment, ventilators, beds and morgue space to handle the surge.

Hartford HealthCare is reporting a 10 to 15 percent daily increase in COVID-19 cases, with 254 positive cases reported within its seven hospitals/care centers statewide and home care. MidState Medical Center in Meriden reported 27 hospitalized patients and seven currently under evaluation. One hundred and one COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized at Hartford Hospital. About 80 patients have recovered, Kumar said.

Hartford HealthCare’s models coincide with those of Baystate Hospital in Springfield, which also announced Monday western Massachusetts may not see its peak until weeks after the surge predicted by state and federal officials. 

Locally, Meriden reported 47 COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, the majority males in their 40s, according to the city’s Department of Public Health and Human Services. 

“There is widespread community transmission,” said Health and Human Services Director Lea Crown. “The number of confirmed cases in Meriden is not a precise indication of the actual cases of COVID-19 in our community due to lack of testing. We are gathering demographic information of confirmed positive cases and will be sharing that data in our update documents.”

From March 1 to April 2, the state DPH Electronic Disease Surveillance System reports 156 Meriden residents have tested negative for COVID-19. The department continues to monitor cases and release those from isolation and quarantine when they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

The department also evaluates the community’s social distancing efforts daily and makes recommendations to suspend services or close public places. 

“If there are concerns regarding social distancing, we refer to the Meriden Police Department, since they have enforcement rights over governor-issued executive orders,” Crown said. “We have not issued any warnings to businesses. We do make calls/mailings/emails to inform businesses (food service, day cares, long term cares, barbershop/nail salons.”

Meriden center to reopen

Apple Rehab of Avon announced on Facebook this week the assisted living chain will reopen its Westfield Care and Rehab Center in Meriden for patients testing positive for COVID-19. The longterm care facility closed in November citing financial difficulties. The Westfield opening is part of the state’s efforts to open up nursing home space to recovering COVID-19 patients. The state also proposed across-the-board increases in Medicaid payments to nursing homes to help meet costs, according to a statement from Gov. Ned Lamont’s office.

The payment increase will be applied toward employee wages, including staff retention bonuses, overtime, shift incentive payments, new costs related to screening of visitors, personal protective equipment and cleaning/housekeeping supplies.

“We will do everything possible to protect the health and safety of our family, friends and neighbors in nursing homes — and the health and safety of the faithful, dedicated and skilled staff members who care for them,”  Lamont said in a prepared statement. 

The 10 percent funding increase runs from April 1 through June 30, with an initial payment of $11.6 million scheduled to be received by nursing homes today. The three-month increase is expected to total $35.3 million.

Long-term care facilities designated by the Department of Public Health to specialize in care for residents with COVID-19 will be eligible for $600 per-day in payments for each person served. This rate is more than double the average daily Medicaid payment rate.

In addition, the state is offering to assist with start-up costs and to make the same $600 per-day payment to facilities that are designated to re-open for the purpose of serving residents with COVID-19.

Apple Rehab also announced on its Westfield Facebook page that it would be hiring for the re-opened facility. 

"Our staff will have the best protection and training with pay to match," the announcement said.

mgodin@record-journal.com203-317-2255Twitter: @Cconnbiz


More From This Section