The novel coronavirus?—a global pandemic currently ravaging most parts of the world?—has been spreading among vulnerable elderly as the number of infection cases rises in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities throughout the United States. This finding follows a deadly coronavirus outbreak that ravaged a nursing home in the Seattle area.
The infectious disease spread among the inhabitants of the Life Care Center in Kirkland which left 35 people?—many of whom are residents?—dead. Federal health officials claim that staff members who were working while sick at the long-term care facility contributed to the spread of COVID-19 not only in the aforementioned facility but also in other facilities in the Seattle area.
“They need the money. They don’t have sick leave. They don’t recognize their symptoms. They deny their symptoms,” said Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County. “Nobody was thinking about COVID-19 at this point.”
Experts and health officials claim that they expect to see many more coronavirus cases arise from various elder-care facilities throughout the United States. This is despite of the stringent countermeasures done by both the industry and the federal nursing-home regulators to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Nursing homes have essentially become “islands of isolation” as they curtail all but the most essential visits from family members and friends in an attempt to prevent their residents from contracting the dreaded coronavirus.
As of this writing, there are 19,744 cases of COVID-19 in the United States.
COVID-19 is a flu-like disease caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is closely related to the SARS and MERS viruses, both of which have caused outbreaks in the past. The disease is caused by a virus designated as SARS-CoV-2 by the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. COVID, on the other hand, is short for “coronavirus disease.” (Related: U.S. State Dept. Issues “Level 4” health advisory urging all Americans to avoid international travel: Is a global coronavirus LOCKDOWN coming?)
Those with confirmed cases reported having symptoms such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath. However, severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia and death. Experts claim that these effects are especially serious in older people and those suffering from underlying health conditions. In addition, many nursing homes have residents within close proximity of each other and of the staff, making it much more likely for a major outbreak to occur.
Just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that a widespread coronavirus outbreak was found at a nursing home in Illinois; in a suburb just southwest of the bustling city of Chicago. After a case was identified within the past weekend, a total of 45 new infections were discovered at the Chateau Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, affecting both residents and staff. According to the Chicago Tribune, federal inspection records revealed that many of Illinois’ nursing home facilities have been among the worst in the nation for the measure of patient protection or following the rules to contain infections.
“Long-term-care residents are our most vulnerable population and at the greatest risk of severe illness,” Ngozi Ezike, Illinois’s public health director, said.
Nursing homes in Florida were also hit with scores of cases as 19 long-term care facilities harbored residents who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. According to Mary Mayhew, Secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration, the facilities in question are currently isolating the individuals who have tested positive for the virus to give them the appropriate care and to prevent further spread among the other residents.
“Our immediate thoughts are with their loved ones at this time. At this point, it is unknown how or when these residents potentially contracted the virus,” Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) spokeswoman Kristen Knapp stated. “FHCA and our members have been and will continue to be vigilant in taking all appropriate measures to safeguard our residents.”
In Oregon, the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon discovered 14 new coronavirus cases on Monday. Thirteen of the infected were residents while the remaining one was an employee. The Oregonian reported that the veterans’ home housed 150 residents, many of whom are older than 70 and about one-third are over 90. Each of the residents and staff was tested for the virus at the behest of the Oregon Health Authority. Later, the Department of Veterans Affairs said that all the residents have been cleared by the testing.