First responders tending to elderly and vulnerable residents of a Washington state nursing home where a coronavirus (covid-19) outbreak had occurred were shocked to find that the facility was sorely understaffed and ill equipped to protect the high-risk residents from catching the virus.
From Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning, only three staff members reported to Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, to care for 90 residents, a first responder told CNN. It wasn’t until Thursday that the King County Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent in personnel to assist.
Another concern was that staff members were not wearing protective gear when treating residents with probable covid-19. And even more alarming is that staff was using positive pressure bag valve masks to ventilate patients, which can disperse more particulate into the air, putting those in close proximity at greater risk of catching the virus.
A spokeswoman for the City of Kirkland told CNN, “our firefighters are taking direction from King County Emergency Medical Services regarding the personal protective equipment. At this time we have been told to continue providing respiratory support including positive pressure bag valve masks.”
CNN solicited comment from both the Life Care Center and the CDC, neither of which had responded by press time. As of today, the coronavirus outbreak has caused 22 deaths in the United States – 14 of which have been linked to the Life Care Center. While most people who contract covid-19 have mild symptoms, older individuals and those with suppressed immunity are at greater risk of severe symptoms and at an increased risk of death.
Prior to the outbreak, the facility house 120 residents and employed 180 staff members. Since then, 54 residents have been transferred to nearby hospitals. The facility is currently testing patients and awaiting test results. At least 13 residents have died with covid-19 since Sunday and another 11 of unknown causes, according to the Los Angeles Times. At least 70 employees are showing symptoms of the virus and have been asked not to return to work.
“We cannot make any promise that exposure, further exposure, within the facility is not happening,” said Tim Killian, a spokesman for Life Care Center, adding that some residents who showed no signs of the virus have developed acute symptoms within an hour.
Alyssa Baskam, who works in Beasley Allen’s Atlanta office, represents individuals who have been injured or the families of those who have died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, or other inpatient facility abuse or neglect. She would be happy to talk with you about any potential claim.