Albuquerque nursing home claims cookout did not spark COVID-19 outbreak

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque nursing home that threw a cookout to honor staff for the work they’d done keeping the coronavirus out of their facility has now been hit by an outbreak. Concerned residents want to know what they were thinking. However, administrators believe the cookout did not spark the outbreak.

The photos may seem innocent enough. Staffers at Princeton Place nursing home in Albuquerque hosted a cookout to commend their hard work caring for some of New Mexico’s most vulnerable population throughout the pandemic.

“Everyone’s eating together and sitting too near each other, and not wearing masks,” a concerned resident said. The person has ties to the facility by the fairgrounds and doesn’t want to be identified, but called the gathering “reckless.”

Photos from the cookout were posted to Facebook on June 11. At the time, Princeton Place was believed to be COVID-free. Five days later, on June 16, the nursing home reported its first positive case.

As of June 29, Princeton Place reports 23 residents and 14 employees have tested positive for the virus. Staff says they’re doing everything they can to contain the spread.

“I certainly understand why there would be anxiety around that, we’re trying to balance both making sure that patients are getting the social engagement that they need as well as the employees,” explained Eric Tanner, the CEO of OnPointe, a Texas-based company that manages Princeton Place.

Thousands of nursing homes across the country are suffering coronavirus outbreaks, Tanner explained. “The unfortunate reality of the situation is there’s a high likelihood that COVID-19 will get into a nursing home, just like there’s a high likelihood that it’ll get into other places,” Tanner said.

Tanner said he believes through contact tracing, they’ve identified an asymptomatic staffer who likely brought the first COVID case to Princeton Place, and said that person was not at the cookout. “We know exactly how vulnerable this population is,” he added.

He points out the nursing home of about 300 workers and 300 residents has been doing regular testing and stayed COVID-free for months, calling Princeton staff ‘heroes.’

“I’m consistently overwhelmed by their courage, their bravery, their love of one another, and their love for others because it’s not an easy job,” Tanner said. “It’s not a job where you can work from home. The nurses, the LVNs, the maid, the housekeepers, the cooks – everybody that works at Princeton Place in my mind is an elevated status in terms of their heroic actions throughout this pandemic,” he added.

Those who’ve tested positive are isolated, he said. Workers are taking proper precautions with personal protective gear. Gatherings like the cookout won’t be happening again anytime soon.

“We’re praying and thinking and hoping for the best, but at this point, we haven’t had any additional hospitalizations or anything like that,” said Tanner. Tanner also said so far, no residents who participated in the staff recognition cookout have tested positive.

The outbreak was likely from community spread, as positive cases appear to be contained to the floor of the asymptomatic employee, he added. As of Monday, June 29, none of Princeton Place’s confirmed COVID-19 patients have had to be hospitalized. The nursing home is working with the state Department of Health on continued COVID-19 testing for everyone at the facility.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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