Of all the states affected by the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, Washington has been the hardest hit thus far with over 160 confirmed cases. A nursing home in the town of Kirkland is the epicenter of the outbreak in Washington, with at least 70 staffers and unknown numbers of residents affected.
The nursing home situation is particularly precarious. Not only are the residents, of whom 60 still remain, living together in close quarters, but the disease has proven particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
The nursing home staff have attempted to contain the spread of contagion while simultaneously attempting to keep residents’ loved ones informed as to the situation. However, family members of residents have forcefully criticized the nursing home’s response.
One woman’s story may serve to illustrate the frustration that family members feel over the situation. Her mother was an 81-year-old resident of the nursing home in reasonably good health. The daughter called the nursing home one night last week and received information that staff had just put her mother to bed and there were no concerns. The woman went to bed reassured, only to awaken with a phone call at 3:30 the next morning saying that it had been necessary to rush her mother to the hospital, where she had died.
The woman states that her mother had shared a room at the nursing home with two other residents, and one had at least several days’ history of persistent coughing. The woman suspects her mother contracted coronavirus from one of her roommates and requested testing. However, no verification of the cause of death has taken place.
At midmorning on the day her mother died, the woman received a call from a staff member at the nursing home telling her that her mother did not have a fever and was fine. Shocked and angry, the woman informed the staff member that her mother had died mere hours previously. Apparently, no one had updated her chart to reflect that she had recently died.
The novel coronavirus causes symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. These range from mild to severe. Approximately 4% of people infected do not survive.