Photo: Peter Blasl

Peconic Landing is taking every possible precaution to protect its residents, staff and the community after learning that a per diem employee tested positive for coronavirus, CEO and president Robert Syron said in an interview this morning.

The Greenport retirement community was notified late yesterday about the confirmed case, Syron said. The county health department has interviewed the worker and anyone who was in close proximity with the worker. Those staff members who were in close proximity have been asked to self-isolate and Peconic Landing has placed those people on paid leave.

Syron said he was not at liberty to provide further details about the worker, including what their role is at Peconic Landing and whether they had direct contact with residents.

County officials have declined to say which of the five newly announced confirmed cases is the Peconic Landing employee. One of the five, a Southold woman in her early 20s, is on mandatory quarantine at home. The others are hospitalized.

There are so far a total of six confirmed cases in Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone said at a press briefing in Hauppauge this morning . The first confirmed case, a man in his 40s, remains in Southampton Hospital and is improving, he said. Another three men, ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s, are currently hospitalized at Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook. A man in his 80s is hospitalized at St. Catherine’s Hospital in Smithtown.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak latest news, closings and cancellations.

Peconic Landing is not currently monitoring any residents for COVID-19, said chief operating officer Gregory Garrett.

“We don’t have anyone with anything other than what you’d see in any nursing home,” he said.

“Starting last week, we upgraded our infection control policies and procedures,” Syron said.

Peconic Landing is now screening employees at every shift to make sure they are well, including taking their temperatures.

“We are screening all visitors and we’ve suspended visitation to the health center, as required by CMS (the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services). We’ve also suspended outside admission to the health center.

According to Peconic Landing’s website, the community employs more than 320 people and has “upwards of 450 residents and members.” The facility has 187 apartments and 109 cottages for independent living, 26 one-bedroom, assisted-living apartments and accommodations for 43 members in its skilled nursing facility. Its health center offers 16 suites for memory support. It also has a 17-suite short-term rehabilitation neighborhood.

A number of new policies are now in effect, Syron said.

“We made it a no-handshake zone. We told our staff, if your sick stay home. We say that in every flu season,” he said.

“We’ve started extra sanitizing. On Monday we suspended all group activities and suspended use of the dining room, the gym, the classrooms and any type of group gatherings until further notice,” Syron said.

Staff is delivering meals to residents living quarters.

Peconic Landing is ensuring that staff stays in contact with and communicates with members of the community, to ensure their mental and emotional well-being during this stressful time.

“We are always sure to do that whenever there is any type of disruption. People are not happy when you close down things,” he said. “But we’d rather be hyper-vigilant.”

The elderly are especially at risk for more serious complications from COVID-19 — especially people in their 70s and 80s, Suffolk County Commissioner of Health Gregson Pigott said this morning.

Nursing homes and life care centers pose special risks, as evidenced by the coronavirus outbreak at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, where 18 residents have died as a result of the infection. Four other long-term care facilities in Washington have been hit with cases.

Yesterday, industry leaders recommended curtailing all but essential visits at nursing homes across the country. They said the novel coronavirus presented “one of the most significant, if not the most significant” issues the industry has ever faced.

The president of the American Health Care Association called the mortality rate among the elderly “shocking,” and said it may exceed the 15% that had been reported in China for people age 80 and older.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor and attorney. Her work has been recognized with numerous journalism awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She was also honored in 2020 with a NY State Senate Woman of Distinction Award for her trailblazing work in local online news. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.