Two residents from the Life Care nursing care center in Kirkland, Washington died of coronavirus days before officials identified the emerging crisis. Now, it’s believed the virus has been circulating inside the facility for even longer than previously believed and well before residents were quarantined to their rooms. At this time, nowhere else in the country has been hit as hard by the coronavirus as Kirkland.
According to the New York Times, as of March 3, 2020, seven residents have been confirmed dead from the virus. It’s estimated that seven others with a connection to the home have fallen ill because of it. North Carolina officials reported a resident of the state testing positive for the virus after traveling to the Life Care center and returning home.
There is talk that the virus has been circulating inside the facility for some time without proper precautions being taken to avoid residents getting infected. In addition to the threat to residents, there’s the potential that visitors and workers could contract the virus and spread it outside of Life Care. In fact, a quarter of Kirkland’s firefighters and a few police officers were asked to isolate themselves after they visited the nursing home. Of those individuals, approximately 12 were experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Families of the nursing facility residents are growing increasingly anxious about the health and wellbeing of their loved ones. Kevin Connolly, whose 81-year-old-father-in-law resides at Life Care, said approximately 65 families have been in touch with the facility after they received a generic update. Because email addresses were left visible, families began sharing stories on the thread. According to Jodi Connolly, whose father is in the facility, “They are prisoners with no information in there.” Officials from the facility claim to be following federal protocol to handle the chaotic situation.
Debbie Delosangeles, whose mother is in the facility, was interviewed by the New York Times. According to her, she was told her 85-year-old mother was symptom-free on Monday, March 2; however, on March 3 she learned her mother’s health had started to decline. Workers told Delosangeles they were treating her mother for a high fever but did not intend to test her for the coronavirus unless she developed breathing problems. Another family member of a 77-year-old resident was told her mother had been sick for nearly a week and was experiencing breathing problems; however, the facility had not tested for coronavirus.
According to Dr. Manisha Juthani, an associate professor at Yale School of Medicine who studies infectious disease in older populations, it’s not surprising that the virus reached a nursing home and caused multiple deaths. Juthani would not be surprised if the coronavirus infiltrated other long-term care facilities.
Across Washington state, nine people have died from the coronavirus. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 3,000. According to state officials, several more people have fallen ill—including two people in their 20s who have been hospitalized in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah. Business, schools, and churches have altered their practices to better protect people from contracting the virus. Local Amazon employees were emailed that a worker from one of the office buildings in Seattle’s Lake Union neighborhood had tested positive for the virus. A local baseball league told parents players would be discouraged from giving high-fives and handshakes. And the Archdiocese of Seattle has indefinitely postponed an annual Mass and dance that would have been held on March 7.
Washington state officials are attempting to stop the spread of the virus. Currently, health officials have asked the State Legislature for an additional $100 million in funding to respond more appropriately to the virus. There’s also talk of potentially limiting public gatherings, like high school basketball games and conventions. At this time, it’s unknown if the situation at Life Care Nursing Home could or should have been handled differently.