ctnewsjunkie file photo
Rep. Robyn Porter standing outside the Avery Heights nursing home in Hartford (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that the state plans to hire an independent third party to review the preparation for and response to COVID-19 by nursing home and assisted living facility operators.

To date, Connecticut’s nursing homes have experienced over 2,500 resident deaths and more than 8,500 cases in a population of just over 21,000. The pace of deaths and positive cases has slowed as testing of patients and nursing home staff has begun in earnest.

Overall, nursing homes continued to account for 63% of all the coronavirus-related fatalities in Connecticut through June 3, and assisted living facilities accounted for 8.4%, according to the latest Department of Public Health numbers.

There have been 2,542 deaths through June 3 in nursing homes, and 337 deaths in assisted-living facilities.

In April, Lamont granted nursing homes immunity from most lawsuits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If there’s a chance that there could be a second surge later on this summer, more likely in the fall, we want to be ready,” Lamont said Monday. “We have a strong outside group that focuses here in terms of infection protocols, PPE, and more long-term what our nursing homes are going to look like.”

Connecticut’s two nursing home associations supported the call for an independent review.

“It is essential that we thoroughly evaluate our state’s response in a non-biased and inclusive way so as to learn from the science and help to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus,” Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, and Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, said. “The state’s experience is part of a national pandemic and in such, our preparation and response was influenced not only by our state’s efforts, but also by the federal response. As such, the nursing home associations recommend that the analysis include the role of the changing CDC’s guidance, the inadequate PPE supply and the delay in testing.”

The Lamont administration will solicit proposals from third-party experts to conduct the review and expects to name a contractor before the end of June.

Lamont’s Chief Operating Officer, Josh Geballe, said the third-party review will be made available to the public once it’s completed. 

Nursing home workers have said the lack of PPE and testing early on hampered their ability to respond to the virus.

The Lamont administration mandated last week that nursing homes start testing their workers on a weekly basis.  The pace of that testing is expected to accelerate this week. So far, it has not caused any staffing shortages.

Lamont said the review is “an investment worth making so we can learn going forward and to be able to share those notes with our fellow governors in the region, because they’re doing much the same type of analysis.”

Connecticut, according to Lamont, “took proactive and innovative steps to address the outbreak in our long-term care facilities, but we must take steps to better understand how prepared the system was, and then review the steps that were taken once the virus was clearly present across the state.”

Connecticut was one of the first states to discontinue visitation in early March, to establish dedicated COVID-recovery facilities to prevent COVID-positive patients from re-entering nursing homes, and to provide a $125 million financial aid package for nursing home providers.