VERNON — Vernon Homes, a senior living community, is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak that claimed the life of one resident.
“We don’t know exactly how the virus entered the building,” said M. Bradford Ellis, executive director of Vernon Homes. “I don’t know if we’ll ever determine that with certainty.”
As of Wednesday, there are 22 active COVID-19 cases at Vernon Green Nursing Home and four at Vernon Hall Assisted Living. Ellis said a resident whose respiratory system was severely compromised died Wednesday.
“It was sad,” he said.
All of the residents are vaccinated.
“That was certainly a benefit,” Ellis said. “So far everybody is doing well. The symptoms have been mild.”
Vernon Homes is working closely with the Vermont Department of Health and Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living. It is following regulations from DAIL to quarantine residents who tested positive for the virus.
Ellis said other residents are isolated in their rooms, and congregant activities, dining and visitations have halted for now.
Staff members providing direct care to residents are wearing masks and eye protection inside the buildings. Ellis said some basic activities are being organized by employees in individual rooms, using transmission precautions and distancing.
Testing of vaccinated employees is now happening twice a week. Staff members who are not vaccinated are being tested every day.
Ellis estimated about 25 percent of Vernon Home’s 110 employees are not vaccinated but about 92 percent of the nursing staff are vaccinated.
“We consistently try to work at that,” he said. “We encourage staff to get vaccinated.”
Vernon Homes is waiting on guidance from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for a mandate. However, Ellis worries that about a third of the unvaccinated staff would no longer work for his group if a mandate came down.
“That would have a huge impact on what is already a stretched staff,” he said.
He noted because of the outbreak, DAIL provided emergency staffing through TLC Nursing Associates Inc. of South Burlington to help cover shifts.
Seven staff members at the nursing facility and two employees at the assisting living facility tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m so thankful for the vaccine and the protection it’s provided to our residents and staff,” Ellis said. “It’s certainly helped us weather the storm.”
This marks the first time Vernon Homes had a resident test positive for COVID-19, Ellis said. He recalled a few employees testing positive but catching the cases via testing before it spread through the facility.
“It’s not an easy situation but we have a great staff here who are dedicated to our residents,” he said. “We’ll pull through.”
The hope is to restart group activities, meals and visitations by Sept. 21 or 22.