Another Decline in Hospitalizations

Nursing Home Workers Wearing Garbage Bags

April 25, 2020 - 12:51 am

Photo by Getty Stock

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTIC Radio / Associated Press)_ Connecticut officials note 70 fewer COVID-19 hospitalizations on Friday in the largest single-day decrease in hospitalized cases.

Cheif of Health Care Quality and Safety at the State Department of Public Health, Barbara Cass, said Friday that nursing home workers who have worn garbage bags to protect themselves from the coronavirus did so because they preferred them to other gear, comments that drew an immediate rebuke from the SEIU 1199 New England union.

``That is an absurd lie,'' said Rob Baril, president of SEIU 1199 New England, the largest health care union in Connecticut.

``The idea that workers who are facing a life-threatening disease are going to choose to wear trash bags instead of actual protective equipment ... I'm almost unable to come up with words,`` he said. ``I have members of my union ... who are dead because they didn't have the personal protective gear that they need.''

``We, too, have heard the stories and have followed up on the trash bag,'' she said. ``And in ... all of the cases thus far, that has been the preference of the employee. It has not been supported by the employer, but that's what they felt comfortable with doing.''

The comments came as the state released new data on coronavirus infections and deaths in nursing homes that indicate about 43% of the state's more than 1,700 deaths are nursing home residents.

Three homes were listed as having at least 20 deaths confirmed to be associated with COVID-19: the Sheridan Woods Health Care Center in Bristol with 22, the Abbott Terrace Health Center in Waterbury with 22, and the Gardner Heights Health Care Center in Shelton with 21.

During an afternoon news conference, Josh Geballe, Governor Ned Lamont's chief operating officer, said the administration received two reports of nursing home workers wearing garbage bags, which he said ``is completely unacceptable and in a health care environment.'' He said both cases were investigated and it was determined the employees chose to wear the bags when gowns were available. He said there's no evidence it's a widespread practice.

``So it could have been an issue of training. We're not entirely clear, but one was actually a food service worker not providing direct care,'' he said.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.


According to a document signed on Tuesday, the state's Department of Public Health commissioner has extended an emergency order barring visits to nursing homes, residential care homes and chronic disease hospitals until Sept. 9.

However, Gabelle said that date can be adjusted ``if the public health conditions merit,'' noting the administration was ``setting expectations given the current situation.'' New data released on Friday night show 135 nursing homes across the state now have at least one COVID-19-positive resident.

The data also show there have been 3,423 positive cases in nursing homes and 568 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. Another 200 deaths are considered ``probable'' cases of COVID-19.

Statewide, a total of 1,764 people have died in Connecticut from COVID-19-related causes as of Friday.