Brendan McDonough/Livingston County News Avon Nursing Home has had 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents as of Friday. The deaths of three residents has been attributed to the virus.

AVON – The CEO of Hurlbut Care Communities, which owns the Avon Nursing Home, says a hospital is to blame for the COVID-19 outbreak at the Avon Nursing Home. As of April 24, 10 residents of the home have tested positive for the virus and three have died.

In a statement Friday, Robert W. Hurlbut said the hospital, which he did not name, “failed to follow infection control protocols,” with an Avon Nursing Home resident who was brought there March 20 for non-COVID-19 related reasons.

“Upon their return on March 25, hospital discharge paperwork stated that this resident was ‘flu/RSV negative, and COVID-19 was also ruled out,’ but a test was not conducted,” Hurlbut said.

The resident presented COVID-19 symptoms within five days of their return and tested positive for the virus on March 31, Hurlbut said.

While Hurlbut didn’t confirm the resident’s age or gender, his description of the resident as the Avon Nursing Home’s “first confirmed COVID-19 case” and the date of their positive test align with those of a woman in her 70s who Livingston County officials previously confirmed was a resident of the facility.

Hurlbut said the resident was placed in a private room and that nursing home staff followed all precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health.

“However, physical distancing is nearly impossible in the nursing home environment, because of the intimate care required and size of our facility,” Hurlbut said. “We feel that this hospital failed to follow infection control protocols, which resulted in multiple positive cases of COVID-19 in our small facility.”

The County News asked what hospital the Avon Nursing Home resident was brought to that Hurlbut said was at fault, but the company didn’t immediately answer Friday.

Hurlbut also criticized a March 25 directive from the state Department of Health that required nursing homes to accept residents that had been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive, or suspected COVID-19 positive, as long as the resident had been deemed medically stable for return.

“This mandate is still in effect today and continues to have a substantial impact across all our facilities,” Hurlbut said. “We need the state to end the mandate requiring nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals.”

As the County News previously reported, the Avon Nursing Home was to conduct mass testing of its residents for COVID-19 Friday.

The company announced its decision Thursday afternoon, following a phone call Wednesday evening with the state Department of Health.

That decision to start testing followed a previous, April 20 offer from the Livingston County Department of Health to facilitate mass testing of residents and staff at the Avon facility.

Nursing Home Administrator James Donofrio declined that offer after conferring with Hurlbut’s corporate office, according to Livingston County Administrator Ian Coyle.

In his statement Friday, Hurlbut said Avon Nursing Home staff tested 21 residents of the facility who were not tested within the last week.

“Of those 21, one resident had a positive test with two results still pending,” Hurlbut said. “This resident has been under an isolation protocol as a possible COVID-19 case since their roommate tested positive for COVID-19 a few weeks ago. Both residents were moved into separate isolation rooms upon receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.”

Livingston County announced the resident’s positive test result earlier Friday. The resident is a woman in her 80s, the county said.

Finally, Hurlbut noted the state continues to control the flow of personal protective equipment, or PPE, to county offices of emergency management, who he said rely on this supply to support nursing facilities.

“Our offices of emergency management... are doing their best to get us what supplies they have, but it is not enough,” he said. “Instead of placing blame on the facilities whose healthcare heroes put themselves at risk every day to care for our elderly, maybe it’s time to start looking at these flawed mandates and reporting directives from the state and the governor’s office that has put our facility and residents at risk.”

Hurlbut has been criticized in the past for comments about PPE availability that Coyle described as “a lie” and a “complete fabrication.”

To read past County News coverage of those comments, click here.

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