TOWN OF WALLKILL – The 86-bed home for seniors in New Windsor had flouted for months a state order that all of its workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, a requirement most other assisted-living homes across New York had met.
A hearing and potential penalty for the violations were looming when residents of New Windsor Country Inn got some startling news last month, delivered to them one by one. Two residents who had gotten word shared it with 85-year-old Jean Ambrosetti as they joined her at their dining table.
They had to move out. One had lived at the home for more than 20 years.
“It was just devastating that they could do that to us,” Ambrosetti said on Friday, seated in a gathering room at her new assisted-living home outside of Middletown, Braemer at Wallkill. “We are in our late 80s and 90s. They gave us two weeks to leave.”
Low rate: New Windsor senior home has one of NY’s lowest staff vaccination rates
First death: World War II vet at New Windsor home is first COVID death in Orange
Pandemic visit: Equine visitor cheers isolated residents at New Windsor senior home
She and other former residents of the New Windsor Country Inn say they were abruptly forced to vacate and scramble to find new housing in the last few weeks. The explanation they say they were given – and don’t quite believe – was that the home had too few workers to care for them after letting go those who refused to be vaccinated.
How many in all were evicted is unclear. Ambrosetti is one of seven or eight residents who settled at Braemar, and the Times Herald-Record spoke to two others who moved elsewhere. The New Windsor Country Inn told the state Department of Health it had just 17 residents as of Sunday, down by 12 from the 29 it reported on Jan. 24.
Residents who were evicted say only those who shared rooms were forced to leave. Neighbors with single-occupancy rooms, who pay more, were allowed to stay.
Paul Lockwood, whose family has owned and run the home for almost four decades, declined to comment or answer questions when reached by phone on Friday.
Back in early October, with days to go before a state deadline for all workers at adult-care homes to have gotten at least their first COVID shot, only 36% of New Windsor Country Inn’s employees had. That was the fourth lowest-percentage out of 553 such facilities in New York and far below the 92% average in New York and 94% average in the Hudson Valley.
The Department of Health cited the home for non-compliance on Dec. 7, by which time its vaccination rate had inched up to 41%. The department had planned to hold a hearing on the violations on Feb. 16 but has postponed it until March 18.
The home reported having 18 employees as of Sunday, the same number that it had on Jan. 24. The staff vaccination rate has jumped, with almost 90% of workers reportedly having had one or both shots, according to state data.
The New Windsor Country Inn was the site of a COVID outbreak at the start of the pandemic that led to Orange County’s first known COVID death: Benjamin Klein, a 99-year-old World War II veteran who lived at the home. At least 20 residents were reported to have been taken to hospitals with COVID symptoms shortly before Klein’s death.
The evictions have angered and bewildered the former residents and their families, who question the urgency and ask why the facility didn’t use a temp agency if necessary to add staff if that was truly the problem.
Kim Garcia said she already was unhappy with declining services at New Windsor Country Inn and had arranged to move her 82-year-old mother, Elaine White, to the Promenade at Middletown. But after giving 30 days notice in January, she got a call saying her mom was set to be evicted anyway and had to leave before the end of the month.
That was the first time Garcia heard of the impending eviction.
“If it was so imminent, when were you going to let me know?” she said she wondered.
Ambrosetti said that a couple days after her table mates told her about their evictions, the owner’s wife, Nea Sum Lockwood, came to her room to tell her she also had to leave, blaming the state and its vaccination requirement.
Seated beside her at Braemar on Friday was 87-year-old Doris Greenwood, who had lived at New Windsor Country Inn for about seven years and also was forced to leave.
Greenwood and Ambrosetti both said that while the food quality had declined and activities had dropped off at New Windsor Country Inn in the last few years, they adored the workers and intended to stay there. Both were born and raised in Newburgh, where they went to school together, and felt more comfortable there than in the unfamiliar area they now found themselves. The New Windsor home also was relatively inexpensive.
“I was devastated, I was so stressed,” Ambrosetti said of her rushed departure. “I’m still stressed. I could still cry.”