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ICYMI - WMUR: Document sheds new light on COVID-19 outbreak at state veterans home

In Case You Missed It, WMUR’s Adam Sexton obtained a damning assessment from the VA that lays bare Governor Chris Sununu’s failure to prevent and mitigate the COVID outbreak at the New Hampshire Veterans Home -- and his hapless attempt to cover up this failure with a sham report.

Key points:

  • The state's investigation of infection control at the facility, conducted on March 12 with a report released a week later, includes little information about the actual outbreak.

  • “But there were other observations. ‘Weekly surveillance testing of all veterans is taking several days to result, making it an unreliable tool for decisions about isolating veterans or quarantining employees,’ the nurse said.”

  • “The nurse recommended that state public health officials help facilitate testing through a local hospital. It's not clear if that recommendation was followed, as the information was not included in the state report.”

  • “There were also issues with N95 mask use. ‘They have received N95 masks from the New Hampshire Public Health Department but are struggling to complete fit-testing on all employees,’ the nurse said.”

  • “The nurse also observed infection control breakdowns, saying, ‘I identified a large gap with employee adherence to infection control recommendations. It is very possible this is contributing to continued transmission and increasing cases.’”

  • “When compared with the recent state report, it appears that months after the VA visit, the veterans home has still not completed N95 fit testing for all employees.”

WMUR: Document sheds new light on COVID-19 outbreak at state veterans home By Adam Sexton March 31, 2021 MANCHESTER, N.H. — A Veterans Administration document obtained by News 9 is shedding more light on the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the state veterans home last year. The document includes information that was not made public in a recent report touted by Gov. Chris Sununu as proof that the pandemic was being handled appropriately at the home. The COVID-19 outbreak at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton remains among the most severe at any long-term care facility statewide. In November and December, 93 residents and 99 staff members tested positive. Thirty-seven residents died. The state's investigation of infection control at the facility, conducted on March 12 with a report released a week later, includes little information about the actual outbreak. But in Section 9 of the assessment, it indicates the VA did its own infection control assessment amid the outbreak on Dec. 3. Also in Section 9, it says: "Please summarize any changes made in infection prevention and control policies or practices as a result of the assistance (from the VA)," but no answer is given. That section of the official document was left blank. A VA document obtained by News 9 is providing some new information. According to an e-mail, a Manchester VA Medical Center infection prevention nurse visited the Veterans Home on Dec. 1 to observe operations and provide recommendations. [...] But there were other observations. "Weekly surveillance testing of all veterans is taking several days to result, making it an unreliable tool for decisions about isolating veterans or quarantining employees," the nurse said. The nurse recommended that state public health officials help facilitate testing through a local hospital. It's not clear if that recommendation was followed, as the information was not included in the state report. There were also issues with N95 mask use. "They have received N95 masks from the New Hampshire Public Health Department but are struggling to complete fit-testing on all employees," the nurse said. The nurse also observed infection control breakdowns, saying, "I identified a large gap with employee adherence to infection control recommendations. It is very possible this is contributing to continued transmission and increasing cases." The VA recommended daily huddles or stronger messaging from management on wearing masks and eye protection, attention to personal protective equipment donning and doffing protocols, and hand hygiene. When compared with the recent state report, it appears that months after the VA visit, the veterans home has still not completed N95 fit testing for all employees. Page 2 of the March 12 assessment summary says, "Most staff are now fit-tested" and notes that only fit-tested staff are assisting with aerosol-generating procedures. U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, who chairs the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said he has seen the VA's account of its December visit to the home. "Unfortunately, New Hampshire is not alone in seeing what we saw at our state veterans home, and we've got to make sure that they can continue to benefit from the support of VA," Pappas said.

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