Coronavirus death prompts state investigation of Milford nursing home
MILFORD — The cause of a 91-year-old man’s death — changed on Tuesday to being associated with the coronavirus — is at the center of a state investigation into a nursing home facility where nearly half of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Chief State’s Medical Examiner on Tuesday changed the death certificate of Jean Louis Auclair, a resident of Golden Hill Rehab Pavilion who died March 30. His death was originally attributed to respiratory failure.
According to the medical examiner’s office, Auclair’s death certificate now reads “acute respiratory infection, probable novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection” with an underlying condition of atherosclerosis chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Auclair is one of at least two coronavirus-related deaths at Golden Hill and the state Department of Public Health is investigating if there are more. The DPH is investigating whether several recent pneumonia deaths at the Bridgeport Avenue facility were also related to the coronavirus.
The DPH is also investigating staffing levels, when families were notified about the illnesses, and health and safety practices at the 120-bed facility.
“There are a bunch of things under investigation there,” said Av Harris, a spokesman for the DPH.
At least 44 Golden Hill residents have tested positive for COVID-19 as of April 3. Harris said Tuesday he could not provide an update on the number of cases, citing the department’s investigation.
In an emailed response to questions sent by Hearst Connecticut Media, Andrew Wildman, executive director at Golden Hill, called complaints about staffing levels and the health of his employees “false rumors.” He also said the DPH has determined the facility has enough workers.
He did not say how many staff or residents at Golden Hill have tested positive for COVID-19, saying only that numbers are reported to the health department as they “change daily.”
“We have adequate staff to meet all state requirements and meet the needs of our residents,” Wildman said. “In addition, we have increased all staff wages in appreciation for the hard work they are doing to care for our residents.”
Meghan Wright said a family member who works at Golden Hill helped treat 49 patients alone one night at the facility. The family member declined to be interviewed due to concerns of losing their job.
“If they have multiple people who are coding at once and they only have one person on staff, it’s a death sentence,” Wright said in a phone interview with Hearst Connecticut Media.
On Sunday, Wright said she received a call from Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who told her the DPH had looked into staffing at Golden Hill and concluded it was adequate. Since then, she said her family member has been contacted by the public health agency again regarding staffing at the facility.
Wright said her relative has not contracted the disease, and continues to work due to a “moral obligation” to the patients.
Milford Mayor Ben Blake’s office referred questions about Golden Hill to the state public health department, and said the citywide figures would have to come from the local health department.
Milford Health Director Deepa Joseph could not immediately be reached Tuesday. There are 113 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Milford as of Tuesday evening, according to the governor’s daily report on testing in the state.
The family of Johnny Johnson, a patient at Golden Hill, said they learned he contracted the illness after he died when they were notified by the funeral home.
Keisha Johnson, his niece, said the 65-year-old had been recovering from an infection after a colonoscopy. She said the family was told April 1 there had been a change in Johnson’s condition, but the following day were notified of his death.
“He was a nice, good, humble, loving man,” Keisha Johnson said.
She said she was notified Tuesday by state officials about the investigation into Golden Hill.
The outbreak at Golden Hill comes as Gov. Ned Lamont is seeking to place nursing home residents who test positive for COVID-19 in separate facilities, including opening nursing homes that have been shuttered to help those who are sick.
Across Connecticut, 38 percent of the state’s 215 nursing homes have reported at least one patient with a confirmed case of COVID-19, the governor’s office said Tuesday. The governor’s office said 123 more nursing home residents have tested positive since Monday, for a total of 600 confirmed cases.
Among those, 171 have been hospitalized and 81 have died, the governor said.