In a five-page letter sent to members Wednesday, Peconic Landing CEO Bob Syron provided an update to the Greenport retirement and life care community’s response to COVID-19 that included a new timeline for when the virus arrived on campus and an updated death toll. In total, 12 members of the community died from the virus, according to a copy of the letter Peconic Landing shared with The Suffolk Times.
The letter is the most comprehensive update provided by the community’s administration and the first in several weeks, following concerns over the national media attention the facility attracted over its reported deaths.
“As a result of the publicity that came from being forthright, our Peconic Landing family was inundated by harassing messages, phone calls, and individuals who were trying to come on campus despite it being closed to non-essential visitors to prevent the spread,” Mr. Syron wrote. “This interference threatened to distract us from what we needed to do to protect our community and provide the high level of care and service our members deserve as the pandemic continued to rage in the region and across the nation.”
Peconic Landing’s daily reporting of coronavirus updates was so uncommon at the start of the outbreak that the community was used as an example during a media briefing in Albany by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month, when he was asked by a reporter why all nursing homes were not being required to provide the same level of information. Days later, new data released by New York State revealed that more than 3,000 deaths have been reported at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the state.
Mr. Syron said that report, which only includes breakdowns for facilities with five or more deaths, also caused confusion among members of Peconic Landing when it listed a lesser figure than the previous number of Peconic Landing deaths reported in the media. He cleared that up in his letter Wednesday.
“Peconic Landing in its entirety is not a nursing home,” he wrote. “Peconic Landing is a Continuing Care Retirement Community. A CCRC provides different levels of living on the same campus.”
Mr. Syron said there have been seven deaths in the nursing communities on campus and five more elsewhere.
Peconic Landing has now seen 25 member residents and 40 staff members test positive for COVID-19. There are currently five residents and nine staff members in recovery. The nine recovering employees remain out on paid leave, wrote Mr. Syron, who is among the 40 members diagnosed with the virus.
While Peconic Landing initially reported that the coronavirus arrived on campus when a staff member tested positive March 10, it has since learned the disease was present on Long Island weeks earlier and at Peconic Landing before the first case was confirmed.
“Despite our extensive early efforts, the virus was already on our campus,” Mr. Syron wrote. “How it got here remains unknown, just as much still is not known about COVID-19 in general. What’s most important is that once we determined our community had been exposed, we further upgraded all of our safety protocols to minimize the spread throughout the campus.”
Mr. Syron also said early testing efforts at Peconic Landing resulted in a higher number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
“With the assistance of our medical director, Dr. Nathanial Desire, we identified and began testing groups of asymptomatic individuals who presented a high risk of spreading the virus into areas where it had not yet been found,” Mr. Syron wrote. “They included health care workers, dining employees, delivery teams, employee screeners, security personnel, housekeepers, transportation and reception. We also screened members from Harbor North for assisted living and Harbor South for memory support. The results were promising and useful in further reducing the risk of additional spread.”
The letter concludes with a message of hope regarding the work still being done at Peconic Landing.
“Each day our team members leave the safety of their own homes and their families to come here with smiles on their faces,” Mr. Syron wrote. “They are fighting to keep our members safe from COVID-19. They are continuing to ensure everyday life continues at our community as they do their utmost to keep our members safe. We are in awe of their determination, commitment and constantly high spirits as they care for their Peconic Landing family. Together, let’s thank our heroes.”