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Two test positive for COVID-19 at Grafton County Nursing Home

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2020 2:12:41 PM
Modified: 4/23/2020 9:34:06 PM

NORTH HAVERHILL — One resident and a traveling nurse at the Grafton County Nursing Home have tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said Thursday.

County Commissioner Linda Lauer said the results of the resident’s test came back late Wednesday afternoon. The resident, who “is doing very well,” was tested after a member of the staff of one of the nursing home’s four units tested positive, Lauer said in a phone interview Thursday.

“Whether it came from that staff member or not it’s hard to say,” she said. “With all the precautions that the nursing home has been taking, we did not anticipate this.”

The 32 other residents in the unit where the resident who tested positive lives and where the nurse who tested positive worked were tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Craig Labore, the nursing home’s administrator, said he expected to receive the results from Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s laboratory sometime on Thursday evening.

Because elderly people and individuals with underlying medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19, Grafton County Nursing Home and similar facilities have taken steps to reduce the risk of infection for their residents.

Such precautions have included barring visitors, temperature screening staff and requiring workers to wear protective gear such as masks, as well as canceling most group activities and meals, Lauer said.

The traveling nurse from Alabama started working in North Haverhill on Monday, April 13.

The nurse had attended orientation and then had been shadowing another nurse, Labore said.

The nurse was sent home on Thursday of that week because of a fever that was detected during the facility’s employee screening process, Labore said.

After developing a cough, the nurse was tested for COVID-19. Labore said he learned of the positive test result on Monday of this week.

He said all the county home nurses are wearing masks, as required, and that the infected nurse had not worked anywhere in the two weeks prior to starting in North Haverhill, Labore said.

The nursing home’s medical staff opted to get the resident tested for COVID-19 because the resident had a urinary tract infection that was not responding to treatment, Labore said. That result came back on Wednesday afternoon.

The resident who tested positive is being isolated from others.

Under guidance from the New Hampshire Department of Health, the patient’s unit is now under “droplet precaution,” meaning that all the staff are wearing full protective gear, residents are being restricted to their rooms and being asked to wear masks.

Because 80% of the nursing home’s residents have a dementia diagnosis, Labore said it’s “easier for some to follow the mask guidance than others.”

Though Labore said he and his staff were disappointed to have a positive test result, they feel ready mentally and with protective equipment.

“Right from the start, our team had prepared for the fact that this was going to happen,” he said.

The nursing home relies traveling nurses due to the nursing shortage in the region, Labore said.

The facility has 11 traveling nurses who work alongside 20 staff nurses.

There were 117 residents as of Thursday.

The facility is licensed for 135.

Danville, Vt., resident Lisa Carlson, whose 81-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s disease and resides at Grafton County Nursing Home, said she has been impressed with the nursing home administration’s transparency during the pandemic.

Labore alerted family members to the nurse’s positive test result in a letter on Tuesday.

“I really wanted to emphasize how open and informative they have been during this pandemic,” Carlson said in a Thursday email. “Craig’s letter ended with him providing his personal extension if we had any questions. As much as I wish I could see my mom, I am satisfied they are doing all they can in a very tough situation.”

She said the nursing home staff members keep her updated and she has weekly FaceTime sessions with her mom.

Elsewhere in the Upper Valley, the Sullivan County Nursing Home in Unity has not had any residents or staff members test positive, Administrator Ted Purdy said in a Thursday email.

Though outbreaks have not yet been announced at county nursing homes in New Hampshire, there are ongoing outbreaks at a handful of facilities around the state, including at two facilities in Derry, N.H., that Health Commissioner Lori Shibinette announced in a Thursday news conference.

Thirty of the 51 COVID-19-related deaths in New Hampshire so far have been residents of such institutions, New Hampshire Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said Thursday.

All but three of Vermont’s 43 COVID-19-related deaths have been in people over 60, according to the Vermont Department of Health. So far, 18 Vermont deaths have been connected to long-term care facilities.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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