San Simeon nursing director: ‘Determined to keep this virus out of here’

Kelly Moteiro has been the director of nursing at San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport for four years.

The 120-bed facility is a rehabilitation and adult care center that, since the COVID-19 virus reared its ugly head four weeks ago, has escaped its ravages without a single confirmed case among its 95 residents, where the average age is deep into the 80s.

Ms. Moteiro, 46, lives in Lake Ronkonkoma with her husband and daughter, who is a student at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue. She is a registered nurse and has a masters degree in nursing leadership.

But for the past month she has been staying near San Simeon so she can be just minutes from work. She was interviewed by the Times Review Media Group on Friday.

Her answers have been edited for space and clarity.

Q: How has San Simeon managed to not have any COVID-19 cases? We see, for example, there have been nine confirmed COVID-19 deaths at nearby Peconic Landing and, as of this writing (Friday afternoon) there are 252 confirmed cases in Southold Town.

A: We started earlier than when the mandate came down to stop all visitation. I was away in Florida. We stopped all visitation into the facility on March 9. I came back to work March 10 and the no visitation policy was underway.

It was mandated later and we were ahead of that. We simply didn’t allow anyone other than employees to be in the building, no exceptions.

Q: Once the doors were locked, how did families keep in touch with their loved ones?

A: We immediately setup up FaceTime and we put Skpe accounts in all the units. We wanted to make sure families could always be in touch. And truly we did not get any hesitation from any family members. They praised us for our proactiveness.

Q: How are your spirits and for your staff as you work to keep San Simeon free of the virus?

A: It’s been extremely exhausting for all of us. But the morale here is better than I’ve seen it in my four years. I could not ask for a better team. But I have not been home in a month. I see my own family on FaceTime. I am staying close by. Yes, perhaps I am a little over the top, but I am committed to this.

Q: Have staff members gotten sick?

A: None of them have gotten sick. But if anyone gets a sniffle or an allergy, I get them out. If someone has a spouse who works somewhere where there have been positive cases, I keep them out for two weeks. I am determined to keep this virus out of here.

Q: What kind of hours are you working?

A: I am here by 5:30 a.m. and leave by about 8 at night. And, yes, that’s a lot. But I love what I do. I have been in nursing my whole life.

Q: Do you have all the equipment you need?

A: We work continuously to get what we need. Right now it’s just masks we are looking for. We have plenty of N95s. Face shields have been donated to us. The community has really stepped up. Two young girls, sisters, had a whole fundraising thing to feed health care workers and today they sent pizzas to us.

Q: Beyond the locked doors, how do you make sure no employee brings the virus into the facility?

A: We are extra strict with staff. Everyone at the front door who is allowed to come in is thoroughly screened. You can’t be here if you come from anywhere where they were or are positive cases. I’d rather be extreme on this so we can keep the virus away. And all doors are locked. No one can sneak in.

 Q: Does what you and your staff are going through now compare to anything else in your career?

 A: This is a world we never thought we’d see. We’ve also seen there is so much good around us. That’s another of the great lessons.