Two Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Windemere nursing assistants have tested positive for COVID-19, but none of Windemere’s 40 residents or other staff have tested positive for the virus.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon, Hospital CEO Denise Schepici said the first employee to tested positive on Dec. 2. The second employee tested positive on Dec. 5. Both employees were asymptomatic.
Windermere residents will be retested on Wednesday and staff will be retested on Thursday and Friday.
The hospital reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. In total, 8,647 patients have been tested. Of those, 258 have tested positive, 8,367 negative, and 22 pending results. At the Test MV site, there were three new positive cases. TestMV has now tested 24,817, with 23,368 negative and 1,332 pending results. Aquinnah is also conducting testing — 346 people have been tested with 0 positives, 343 negative results, and 3 are pending results.
Nursing homes and long term care facilities have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus. The average age of COVID-19 deaths across the state is 81, according to public health data.
As of Monday 6,900 deaths in Massachusetts have been attributed to long-term care facilities since the pandemic started — which is about 62 percent of the total deaths in Massachusetts.
Both nursing assistants are “travelers.” Schepici clarified that the “traveling” nurses and assistants are not taking the ferry everyday, but are usually at the hospital for 13 week assignments. Nursing assistants perform more custodial care such as toileting and feeding, where a nurse is licensed differently and can give medication.
One of the COVID-positive nursing assistants did travel off-Island outside of work, according to Schepici. Both individuals were living in shared housing, but none of the other roommates have tested positive. Schepici also believes the cases are related to each other since the two individuals worked on the same unit in Windemere. They are the first Windemere employees to test positive for COVID-19.
All non essential visitors and staff are prohibited from entering Windemere. Resident care areas on the second floor are also in quarantine. All staff are required to be in full personal protective equipment with respirators.
“This goes to show that virus spread can happen even with the tightest restrictions we have placed on Windemere from the start of the pandemic,” Schepici said.
Schepici also praised the Windemere staff calling them “troopers” who work hard to make sure residents are well cared for.
“Those caregivers are working hard to make things as normal as possible,” she said.
Long term care facilities such as Windemere will be first on the state’s list to receive vaccine doses along with COVID-19 care workers. Schepici said Windemere staff and residents are expected to receive the vaccine by the end of December. She added she is “hopeful” the rest of the hospital will also receive the vaccine by the end of the month.
The state requires hospitals to test employees once a week for COVID-19.
Speaking broadly, Schepici said she understood the difficulty of saying no to friends and family when making plans especially during the holidays, but now is the time to stay safe.
“We have to protect our healthcare workers, we must. We don’t have a deep bench here,” Schepici said. “We have to make sure we protect each other, keep our staff safe so we can take care of you.”
Don’t delay care
While Gov. Charlie Baker is calling for hospitals to curtail elective inpatient procedures, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Denise Schepici said the Vineyard’s hospital is still able to provide several procedures and stressed that care should not be delayed.
“Our message is this: it is business as usual for our patients and their care and we urge everyone not to defer their care,” Schepici said.
The focus of Baker’s mandate is to have enough hospital beds available — especially Boston area hospitals — if more COVID positive patients require inpatient care. Baker’s decision is not curtailing outpatient or ambulatory care, meaning preventative care procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies can and should continue, according to Schepici. No elective procedures are being curtailed.
“We’re taking it day-by-day, step-by-step. It’s staffing driven and certainly if things get worse and the governor really tightens up the orders more we will follow the guidelines, but I really want to stress it’s business as usual in an unusual time,” Schepici said.
The hospital has consistently urged people not to delay medical care. Baker’s guidance also tells hospitals to not defer cases that can be life saving or preventative, especially if the hospital does not have bed capacity issues.
Baker’s decision gives hospitals like Martha’s Vineyard Hospital discretion for inpatient procedures. Schepici said most of the hospital’s elective inpatient procedures are orthopedic and only require a one or two-day stay.
“We are in a position where we can curtail … any of these procedures quickly if we need to,” she said.
Hospital chief nurse and COO Claire Seguin said no decisions are made in a vacuum.
“We’re very patient-first, patient safety, and staff safety,” Seguin said.
The hospital has 21 inpatient beds and has averaged nine patients in those beds in the past several weeks.
“Don’t defer your care, come in for your well visits, come in for your check ups and by all means come in if you have concerns about your health. Don’t let things deteriorate,” Schepici said.