An assisted-living facility in East Providence detected a COVID-19 outbreak of 30 people shortly after lifting restrictions on visitors, who are not required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.
On Friday, Winslow Gardens spokeswoman Betty Galligan confirmed that the new cases had been discovered in late November, through Thanksgiving Day.
One of those infected is a staff member, while 29 are residents. Six residents have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms, though none are in serious condition, according to Galligan. All are expected to recover.
Galligan said all of those infected had three shots, with the exception of one resident who was unvaccinated.
Each of the cases at the 114-resident facility was detected after Winslow Gardens lifted restrictions on visitors on Nov. 19. Visitors, regardless of vaccination status, are allowed to remove their masks during their visit as long as they are not walking through the facility.
Since those infected were not in close contact, the spread of the virus was attributed to holiday gatherings and visits both inside and outside the facility, Galligan said.
"They didn’t socialize, they don’t have the same activity together, they didn’t ride the bus together," she explained. "So what they traced it to was the families being together for the holiday or just visiting."
The facility is not considering implementing new restrictions on visitors. However, Rick Gamache, CEO of Aldersbridge Communities, the nonprofit agency that operates Winslow Gardens, said that according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "we cannot require visitors to be vaccinated."
While CMS guidelines apply only to nursing homes rather than assisted living facilities, Winslow Gardens is attached to Linn Health & Rehabilitation, which is a nursing home. For that reason, Gamache said visitor rules are kept the same between both facilities.
"They can be unvaccinated," Gamache said. "The only thing we do is we can screen them when they come in."
That process involves taking temperatures and asking wellness questions on a Rhode Island Department of Health form.
Linn Health & Rehabilitation does not currently have any COVID-19 cases.
"I think we're going to weather this," Gamache said. "We have never had an outbreak at Winslow, and quite frankly, I was hoping that this was all over, that COVID was on the way out, but it seems like in the whole state it's spiking up."
According to data from the Department of Health, Berkshire Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence has also seen a substantial outbreak, reporting at least 20 new cases within the last two weeks.
Within those two weeks, four locations — Evergreen House Health Center in East Providence, Summit Commons in Providence, West View Nursing Center in West Warwick and The Elms Retirement Residence in Westerly — have reported at least five cases each.
A number of other locations detected fewer cases.
John Gage, president of Rhode Island Health Care Association, which represents 64 nursing homes, pointed out that most facilities are reporting only a minimal number of breakthrough cases.
“These are folks that have already been fully vaccinated and have had the booster and they’re having a breakthrough positive test," he said. "For the most part, the symptoms have been very mild."
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: COVID outbreak at Winslow Gardens assisted living in East Providence