By now, every American has been affected in some way by the novel coronavirus, also known as Sars CoV-2, or COVID-19. While no one is immune to this deadly disease, our senior citizens are among the most vulnerable, with those aged 65 or older accounting for 8 out of 10 deaths from COVID-19.
Currently, our nation’s nursing homes are home to over one million seniors, so it’s no wonder that they have been called “ground-zero” for COVID-19. But deadly outbreaks at these facilities are not an inevitability. When an outbreak of COVID-19 at a nursing home occurs, it can be due to negligence on the part of the facility or staff members. If you suspect negligence may be responsible for a COVID-19 outbreak at the nursing home where your loved one resides, contact the skilled attorneys at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt without delay.
1.3 million seniors live in nursing homes in the United States
What Causes COVID-19 Outbreaks in Nursing Homes?
By now, most of us are familiar with the common symptoms of COVID-19, which include:
- Fever or chills
- Cough/shortness of breath
- New loss of taste or smell
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
What we continue to learn about almost daily is how this disease is spread. We know that the disease is primarily spread via person-to-person contact. This could mean that the virus is spread either through large droplets that we expel through talking, sneezing, or coughing or by aerosolized particles that hang around in the air for an undetermined amount of time. What is most troubling is that the virus can be spread by asymptomatic individuals – people who do not feel, look or act sick in any way.
Much like the flu, the virus can also live on surfaces for up to 5 days depending on the material. Surfaces like a dining room table or doorknob that are not regularly or properly cleaned can spread the virus to others in the facility.
The proper use of PPE (gloves and masks) is crucial to stopping the spread of COVID-19
Lack of Infectious Disease Control in Nursing Homes
Long before the current crises, nursing homes were already struggling to control outbreaks of infectious diseases within their walls. In fact, 75% of nursing homes nationwide have received a citation in the last three years for failing to properly control and monitor infections.
In Pennsylvania, Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center was recently raided by the FBI in connection to a fatal outbreak of COVID-19 where over 400 residents and staff members tested positive and 73 people died. This same facility was inspected in the fall of 2019 and found to have residents living in filthy conditions, without enough trained nurses on staff or proper facilities for handwashing. Inspectors at the time warned that these conditions could lead to the spread of diseases, but despite being marked deficient over 60 times and fined $68,000 since 2016, Brighton was still continuing to operate.
Nursing homes, like Brighton, should have addressed issues in controlling the spread of infectious diseases years ago. The outbreak of a pandemic merely reveals long-standing problems with how these facilities are allowed to operate.
What Guidelines Should Nursing Homes Be Following?
There are clear guidelines to prevent the spread of a disease like the coronavirus in a residential setting. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has offered guidance for nursing homes including:
- Symptom screening
- Hand washing
- Appropriate use of PPE
- Separate staffing for COVID-19 patients
Controlling the spread of infections in these facilities ultimately comes down to one important factor; time. When nursing homes are short staffed, the employees who work there are often forced to cut corners, causing them to fall short of the guidelines offered above.
When to Contact a Skilled Coronavirus Outbreak in Nursing Homes Lawyer
The coronavirus has been a significant challenge to all of us. If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, you may have experienced feelings of anxiety, amplified by the fact that many homes have not allowed outside visitors to see their relatives. It is easy to feel helpless in this situation, but know there are steps you can take. If your loved one reports something suspicious, having a skilled lawyer contact the facility can make the processes much easier for everyone involved.
If you suspect that a nursing home has been negligent in their efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, you will have a lot of questions. Don’t feel like you need to answer them on your own. The attorney’s at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt will help you investigate the facility, and help put a stop to any harmful practices that are occurring. Contact us today by filling out our form or calling 1-866-869-5318.