3rd person dies in Bennington nursing home COVID-19 outbreak; 71 cases reported

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A third person has died in a Bennington, Vermont nursing home and rehab center in the thick of a COVID-19 outbreak. NewsChannel 13 has been looking into this since we first heard how many people were infected in one facility.

As of Wednesday, there are 71 cases in the Crescent Manor Nursing Home and Rehab Center. NewsChannel 13 is told that includes 45 residents and 26 staff.

We asked whether the three deaths are among residents or staff members and how many people are living and working in the facility. We are still waiting for an answer.

The outbreak comes as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency which sets nursing home guidance, has relaxed visitation at facilities nationwide.

We got a copy of the guidance, revised just weeks ago, saying visitation is now allowed for “all residents at all times.” NewsChannel 13 reached out to Crescent Manor multiple times to try to find out whether there are any new limits because of the outbreak. We did not hear back.

“There are far fewer situations in which visitation can be restricted,” explained Will Fritch, Director of Operations at Vermont’s Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living.

Wednesday NewsChannel 13 learned a third person died in the outbreak.

“The loss of life associated with this outbreak, that’s tragic and it’s painful,” Fritch said.

Crescent Manor is one of 17 facilities in Vermont with an outbreak, and it has more than three times the number of cases in the next biggest outbreak, which reports 22 cases.

Fritch says the facility is doing all it can to limit the outbreak, including conducting testing twice weekly or as needed, dedicating staff to specific units, and pausing group meals and activities. He says his agency is in regular contact with facilities going through an outbreak.

“The morbidity and mortality we’re seeing now, could be worse, had this facility not done all the work they’re doing to access things like vaccination, and boosters and specifically here, monoclonal antibody therapies,” said Fritch.

Ninety-seven percent of people 75 and older are fully vaccinated in Vermont, according to data from the state’s Department of Health.

“We’ve had great uptake of vaccination here in Vermont, and that includes in our long-term care populations, both for the initial series of vaccinations and for boosters,” explained Fritch.

NewsChannel 13 asked how, then, so many cases are involved in this outbreak.

“The root cause of this outbreak and the outbreaks we’re seeing across the state is related to what’s happening in their communities,” said Fritch. “We need to do what we can to address the spread and COVID-19 in the community so we can thereby address the spread in our long-term care facilities.”