WALLINGFORD — The Army National Guard arrived early Wednesday morning at the Quinnipiac Valley Center with the goal of setting up more than 30 beds for recovering COVID-19 patients.
First, the group of 24 reserve soldiers had to clear old items stored in the wing of the east side nursing home that will be dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients after hospital stays.
First Lt. Andrew Solari said clearing out the old stuff was a minor setback, and that his team intended to complete the job in one day. By mid-morning, they had filled a dumpster with office equipment, old decorations, broken TVs and furniture. Old paperwork was moved to the main center.
Members of Solari’s division set up COVID-19-dedicated beds earlier this month at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury and at Stamford Hospital, for a total 422 beds, he said.
Lori Mayer, Quinnipiac Valley Center spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the center doesn’t have a go-live date for admitting COVID-positive patients, and is sixth on the state's list of facilities being designated for COVID-19 patient recovery. The center is located at 55 Kondracki Lane, not far from E.C. Stevens School.
Wallingford Health Director Stephen Civitelli said Wednesday the 34-bed recovery facility would have the capacity to operate Monday if needed.
Wallingford police announced Tuesday that the state Department of Health intended to establish a COVID-19 recovery facility at the Quinnipiac Valley Center.
The patients to be housed at the facility are those who previously resided in a nursing home setting, but were denied re-admission to their original nursing home due to inability or incapacity to care for them, according to a statement from Police Lt. Cheryl Bradley.
An executive order signed by Gov. Ned Lamont on April 11 authorized Public Health Commissioner Renée D. Coleman-Mitchell to designate COVID recovery facilities through the duration of the pandemic.
To assist the providers with the additional strain caused by the virus, the state is increasing payments to nursing homes by 10 percent and is offering an additional $600 per day to homes designated as COVID-19 recovery facilities, according to the statement accompanying Lamont’s executive order.
Most recovery facilities are nursing homes that already had a significant number of patients testing positive for the virus or which closed in the past few years and could rapidly be pressed back into service, according to the statement and information in Monday’s press briefing.
Westfield Rehab Center on Westfield Road in Meriden is among the closed centers set to reopen as recovery facilities.Town Council gets an update
During the Town Council’s meeting Tuesday evening, Civitelli said that he had concerns about how opening the recovery facility would impact current residents, and how the EMS call volume would be impacted by having that many individuals in an acute care situation in town.
The recovering patients would stay at the facility until they either are fever-free for 72 hours without fever-reducing medicine or have two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart, he said.
Councilor Gina Morgenstein asked about the total number of beds at the center.
Civitelli said Quinnipiac Valley Center is licensed for 180 beds, and the 34 beds designated for the recovery facility wing are included in that number.
Councilor Christina Tatta said she was concerned about whether the families of current Quinnipiac Valley Center residents were contacted about the plans to open a COVID-19 recovery facility.
He said that Quinnipiac Valley Center will be notifying current residents.
Tatta also asked about the town’s involvement and input into the decision to open a COVID-19 recovery facility in town.
Civitelli said the town was not solicited or told ahead of time, and that the decision was made between DPH, the governor’s office and Genesis Healthcare, owner of the Quinnipiac Valley Center.
“In terms of what we can control at that facility is up for debate,” Civitelli said, adding that he contacted those agencies to say he wanted a say in how the operation was going to roll out, specifically to make sure the caregivers for COVID-19 patients stay with them and don’t cross into the general population of the center.