COVID-19 outbreak turns deadly at San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport

In early January, the first round of vaccines arrived for distribution at San Simeon by the Sound, a 120-bed skilled nursing, rehabilitation and adult day care facility in Greenport. New York designated nursing home residents and staff as a top priority in its distribution plan for the vaccine after COVID-19 left a deadly impact at so many facilities.

During the initial 10 months of the pandemic, San Simeon proved to be an outlier, with no confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents. And on Jan. 4, the first round of vaccinations — a process done in conjunction with CVS — resulted in 97% of the resident population receiving an initial dose. (The vaccines currently approved by Pfizer and Moderna each require two doses either three or four weeks apart.)

“I am very pleased to report that ongoing resident testing per NYS Department of Health requirements has turned up no positive cases of COVID-19,” wrote Steven Smyth, San Simeon’s executive vice president and administrator, on Jan. 7.

But the vaccine hadn’t arrived fast enough. Four days later, Mr. Smyth confirmed the first case of COVID-19 among residents as routine testing uncovered six positives among three sets of roommates.

Just over a week later, a total of 11 residents were confirmed to be positive. And three residents have died.

“Of the eight remaining residents, one remains in the hospital and of the other seven, only one continues to test positive, and is also asymptomatic,” Mr. Smyth wrote on Jan. 20.

Mr. Smyth did not return a phone message or email this week requesting an interview. 

The latest figures from the Suffolk County Department of Health show 643 COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed at Suffolk nursing homes and another 230 are presumed COVID deaths. An additional 45 deaths are linked to assisted-living facilities. And that data does not include confirmed or presumed COVID deaths that occurred outside the facility.

On Tuesday, Mr. Smyth reported no new cases among residents or employees following testing on Monday and expressed confidence the outbreak had been contained.

On Monday, the second round of vaccinations took place, which allowed over 97% of the resident population to receive both doses, Mr. Smyth reported. 

“Resident testing has revealed no new cases of COVID-19,” he wrote. “All residents who were previously positive are testing negative with rapid tests, and we await the PCR test results to confirm they are negative.”

San Simeon has been closed to visitors since late November, when an employee tested positive. That resulted in suspended visitation through mid-December, at which time San Simeon opted to remain closed. 

“We are very concerned about community spread and the current very high transmission rates, so while we technically are allowed to reopen to visitors, we are taking a proactive — and difficult — position to continue the visitation suspension,” Mr. Smyth wrote on Dec. 15. The policy was renewed again on Dec. 21, at the same time the facility announced the first date of vaccinations had been scheduled, bringing a sense of hope that a return to normal was on the horizon. The facility had originally been given a date of Dec. 30 by the New York State Department of Health for Round 1, but that was later pushed back by five days.

Following both rounds of vaccination on Jan. 4 and Jan. 25, less than half of the facility’s staff has received the vaccination. San Simeon reported that only 36% of employees “elected to receive the vaccine during this first vaccine clinic visit.”

“We expect employee vaccination rates to increase significantly during this second clinic date,” Mr. Smyth wrote on Jan. 7.

However, on Tuesday, he reported that the percentage of staff who elected to receive the vaccine had climbed to 48%. A third round of vaccinations is scheduled for Feb. 15.

“There have been no significant reactions to the vaccine among residents or staff thus far,” he wrote.

While the facility did not report any positive cases among residents for the first 10 months, there have been cases among staff members. Most recently, three employees tested positive in late December, the facility reported on Dec. 21. Those positives resulted in a continued halt of visitation for 14 days, during which residents were required to remain in their units and communal activities were suspended, according to San Simeon.

“As discussed in my earlier communication, this is indicative of the widespread infection rates within our community,” Mr. Smyth wrote on Dec. 21.

A spokesperson for the Suffolk County Department of Health did not respond to a request for comment prior to deadline.