On the two-hour drive from Laurel, Md., Irene Thompson thought about pulling over. The tears had clouded her vision, and at moments, she felt like she couldn’t breathe.
Usually, gospel calmed her down, but this time, it only reminded her of her mother — how she loved Bingo and made a meatloaf and macaroni and cheese that her sister Tanisha Evans said “was nothing but the truth” — and the call she received Friday night.
“Mom might not make it past the weekend.”
When the dementia worsened in 2018, Thompson and her sisters brought their mother, Arvella Evans, to Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare facility. Tanisha wished she knew then that the skilled nursing facility in Henrico County would become one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak in Virginia, where more than 90 residents and two dozen staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
Two more residents died Saturday, two on Friday, bringing the total to 20.
Tanisha and another sister, Tywanna Evans, would take turns visiting five, sometimes seven days a week. Tanisha would bring a fresh batch of laundry like clockwork, even when her mother didn’t recognize who she was. But on March 11, she was stopped at the door. The facility was on lockdown. The World Health Organization had declared the coronavirus a pandemic, but perhaps, this meant her mother was safest there, Tanisha remembered thinking.
Then the FaceTime calls stopped and she was told her mother was moved to the isolation wing to be tested.
No one followed up to tell the family that their mother, a woman in her 80s, had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“So now they’re not notifying the loved ones of the family members that have been tested?” she said. “No one said anything. … I’m disappointed. I’m discouraged. I want somebody to hear it because, my whole thing is, I don’t want this to happen at another facility. I want it to be avoided.”
Arvella Evans can’t move on her own, Tanisha said, so she believes an employee must have passed it to her mother.
Tanisha filed a complaint of negligence against the facility to the Virginia Board of Health, an agency that regulates health facilities, saying Canterbury’s lack of action contributed to the numbers increasing to the level it has. Canterbury said in a statement Saturday that it is facility policy not to comment on legal matters publicly.
The Virginia Department of Health reported 395 new cases of coronavirus in Virginia, marking a total of 2,407 people in Virginia who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. Of the confirmed cases, 52 people have died, a six-person increase since Friday, and 390 have been hospitalized. The VDH figures are based on numbers that were current as of 5 p.m. Friday.
There are 388 cases in the immediate Richmond area: 174 in Henrico, 106 in Chesterfield, 96 in Richmond and 12 in Hanover. Fairfax County is the locality with the most cases with 387. According to demographic information provided by VDH, people over the age of 60 account for over a third of cases. VDH information
Canterbury makes up almost half of Henrico’s current cases, which Tanisha said is incomprehensible.
Within the facility, 38 residents have tested negative and one refused the test; 10 are currently pending and five residents are currently at the hospital, leaving a total of 88 confirmed positive patients currently on-site, said Dr. James Wright, Canterbury’s medical director.
“Certainly at the beginning of this crisis, wearing an N95 mask, a gown and gloves to see patients was a foreign or new thing for our employees. It took a little time to get up to speed on that,” Wright said. “We are now … but I can’t rule out the possibility that employees will still get infected.”
As of Friday, 25 health care workers at Canterbury tested positive for COVID-19. Those not showing symptoms have continued caring for patients who are also positive. Wright said a positive-to-positive contact removes concern of transmission of that particular strain. Workers who are COVID-19 positive enter and exit through the facility’s isolation wing, where they only come into contact with other people who have also tested positive, and they get disinfected and shower.
Wright has tested negative and is being re-tested again on Monday to make sure of his status. He said no one is being contacted on a daily basis but families are informed when there’s been a serious decline in a family member’s well-being.
“We’re under extreme duress to provide care with the staff that we have in an unprecedented crisis,” Wright said. “We are adequately informing families of the status of their loved ones when they need to know the information.”
Wright added if families aren’t called, it’s because the individual is doing fine. Calls that would involve statements such as the one Tanisha received result from the patient having a decrease in food and fluid intake, increased difficulty in breathing and not responding to treatment.
For residents in their 70s and 80s, such as Tanisha’s mother, Wright said developing respiratory issues usually means an onset of viral pneumonia, which combined with the coronavirus can be deadly.
Thompson said the only reason they knew of the confirmed cases was because of a Richmond Times-Dispatch article that was published last Saturday.
The facility has allowed them to spend however long their mother has left outside of her facility window. On Saturday morning, they decorated the patches of grass with Easter decorations, checking in on their mother from afar. She’s lost a significant amount of weight, won’t eat and continues to not recognize them.
“It’s not fair for her life to be taken from her. She’s fighting,” Tanisha said. “It’s sitting in my stomach to know that this one facility dropped the ball.”
But they won’t stop showing up. They will find a way to say goodbye, somehow, some way.
Employee of Lucy Corr positive for COVID-19
A staff member at Lucy Corr, a long-term care and retirement facility in Chesterfield County, tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The center announced Saturday that the full-time nursing employee hadn’t been on-site or in contact with anyone from the facility since March 22 and has been communicating constantly with doctors and Lucy Corr management.
Currently, no residents within the Lucy Corr community — which is home to 200 nursing home residents, 48 assisted living residents and 100 independent living residents — have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are working closely with the Virginia Department of Health and have enforced visitor restrictions, deferred almost all outside vendors and invoked countless other safety precautions since the very early days of this situation to limit exposure to residents, team members, at the community at large,” said Derrick Kendall, CEO of Lucy Corr.
Kendall added they continue to screen staff members, including supply deliverers, before coming on-site as well as monitoring residents daily for COVID-19 symptoms. Lucy Corr has more than 300 employees.
Eight cases confirmed at Virginia Home
Virginia Home, a residential care facility near Maymont Park for people who have irreversible physical disabilities, confirmed Saturday that 7 residents and one employee at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus.
Six are being cared for on-site while one resident is being treated at a hospital and the employee is at home.
As of Saturday, there aren’t any new confirmed cases but tests are pending.
Grocery employees testing positive
An employee at the Whole Foods Market store in the West Broad Village in Henrico County tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the second grocery store employee in the Richmond area to have a confirmed positive this week.
The employee is in quarantine, a Whole Foods representative said, and the store remains open.
“We’ve been working closely with our store team members, and are supporting the diagnosed team member,” the chain said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, the store performed an additional cleaning and disinfection, on top of our current enhanced sanitation measures.”
Whole Foods didn’t identify the employee, what job the person had at the store or when the person tested positive for the COVID-19 out of respect for the team member’s privacy.
On Wednesday, Kroger confirmed that an employee at the chain’s store near Regency mall had tested positive for the coronavirus. That Kroger employee is quarantined at home and hasn’t worked at the store since March 13, a spokeswoman said. The store also remains open.