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Fulton Center hit by another outbreak

A total of 56 active coronavirus cases among staff members, residents reported Friday

A total of 56 active coronavirus cases among staff members, residents were reported Friday at the Fulton Center. (The Leader-Herald file photo)

GLOVERSVILLE — After being deemed the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Fulton County in the spring when at least 111 residents and 24 staff members tested positive for the virus, the Fulton Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare is now facing another outbreak of in-house infections.

The Fulton Center in the spring launched a COVID-19 reporting page on its website that is updated daily with statistics on in-house coronavirus cases. Those statistics are also submitted to the state Department of Health.

On Jan. 6, the Fulton Center reported active coronavirus infections among two residents and two staff members. Just over a week later, the Fulton Center on Friday reported active coronavirus infections among 38 residents and 18 staff members.

Fulton Center spokesperson Jeff Jacomowitz in a prepared statement issued Friday in response to a request for comment stated that three residents have died due to the coronavirus over the past month.

“Sadly, over the past month, three residents passed away at the hospital due to COVID-19. No residents have lost their lives at the facility during this second wave of COVID-19. For the three that have passed, our hearts and deepest sympathy goes out to their families and friends,” stated Jacomowitz.

One wing in the facility was previously designated in the spring for the isolation of coronavirus positive residents that remains in use during the current outbreak. Clinical and non-clinical staff assigned to that area of the building are similarly contained to working only within that wing and are not to enter other areas of the facility.

Jacomowitz indicated that facility-wide testing on Wednesday that identified 17 new coronavirus cases had potentially contained the virus, stating that no additional cases were recorded the following day. However, the Fulton Center website states there were two new in-house cases reported among “staff and/or residents” on Thursday.

According to Jacomowitz, the Fulton Center has been in contact with public health officials throughout the current outbreak.

“Fulton Center had met and continues to meet and have conversations with educators and personnel from the Department of Health regarding this second wave of COVID-19, so the facility has been prepared since late last summer,” stated Jacomowitz.

The spokesperson did not provide a specific cause for the current outbreak, instead comparing the situation with the widespread surge in coronavirus cases that has unfolded this winter and worsened since the holidays.

“This post-holiday trend of outbreaks is a nationwide situation that mirrors exactly what is happening at Fulton Center,” said Jacomowitz

Local cases have soared recently, with 365 Fulton County residents testing positive for the virus in the past week for a seven-day positivity rate of 12.7 percent, according to the state DOH. Fulton County experienced a record high number of confirmed positive cases in a single day on Thursday when 88 residents tested positive, breaking the county’s previous single day record high of 85 set only a week earlier on Jan. 8.

The Fulton Center since it began reporting in-house coronavirus cases has reported a total of 208 residents and staff members have tested positive for the virus from May 8 through the present.

More than half of the total confirmed cases reported by the Fulton Center date back to an outbreak that spread through the facility beginning in late April that stretched into early June. The Fulton County Public Health Department reported 111 Fulton Center residents and 24 staff members tested positive for the coronavirus during that outbreak and 24 of those residents passed away from COVID-19.

The nursing home at the time implemented health safety protocols and screening measures in accordance with state and federal guidelines to contain the spread of the virus that Jacomowitz said remain in place.

“As when the first outbreak occurred in last spring, Fulton Center continues to follow all the guidelines set forth by the NY state Department of Health and the CDC with regards to front door screening of staff, facility-wide testing of residents and staff and the best ways to contain the virus as soon as it is discovered in the facility,” stated Jacomowitz.

Use of personal protective equipment throughout the facility remains mandatory and the Fulton Center has begun using both conventional polymerase chain reaction coronavirus tests and rapid tests to identify and isolate positive cases.

While the Fulton Center works to contain the current outbreak, future outbreaks may soon be prevented as the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was administered to roughly 47 percent of the facility’s residents and 20 percent of staff members on Jan. 8. The second dose is expected to be administered on Jan. 29.

“Nationally, it has been seen that between 20 and 25 [percent] of staff at hospitals and nursing homes have agreed to take the first dosage. Fulton Center expects the staff numbers will go up. No major adverse reactions to the vaccine have been reported,” stated Jacomowitz.

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