A group of family members of residents at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, want more answers on the conditions of their loved ones, including residents who they claim have died without being tested for the coronavirus.
Seven residents at the Life Care Center have died as a result of coronavirus, according to the King County Health Department, but at least two more residents died recently without knowing whether the virus is responsible, according to the family members at a press conference held outside the nursing home Thursday.
Pat Herrick – who first expressed concerns to CNN Tuesday about the situation at the nursing home – says her mother, Elaine, died early Thursday morning after living at Life Care Center for seven years.
Herrick emphasizes the care her mother received from the nursing home workers has been excellent.
“They’re also feeling beaten down, I’m sure,” she said. But Herrick feels the staff does not have enough resources to deal with the outbreak, especially after she says a Life Care worker called her mid-morning Thursday to say her mother’s condition was stable.
“That’s bull—-,” Herrick recounts saying to the worker over the phone. “My mother died at 3:30 this morning.”
She says the person on the phone was shocked to hear it, and later admitted she had not read the full chart.
Elaine Herrick was never tested for coronavirus, according to her daughter, and Pat Herrick says she is now pushing the nursing home and local health officials to have her mother’s remains tested to determine if coronavirus is responsible. For now, Elaine Herrick is listed as dying of natural causes, according to her daughter, Pat.
Across the country, at least 250 cases of coronavirus have been reported as of Friday afternoon. At least 13 deaths have been reported in Washington state alone.
Mike Weatherill told reporters his mother, Louise, died Wednesday morning shortly after being tested for coronavirus, but they still do not have the results back. “Everybody just moved too slow to recognize this virus,” Weatherill said.
Kevin Connolly, who says his father-in-law is at Life Care, disputes whether the residents are being quarantined to the degree officials are saying. “My father-in-law was invited to walk outdoors if he wanted,” Connolly said. “This is not quarantine.”
Others are also worried about their loved ones who are still at the center.
Bonnie Holstad told reporters Thursday that she wants to get her husband, a patient with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, moved to another facility.
He has had a cough, but he hasn’t tested positive for coronavirus, she said. Yet other facilities won’t take him because of the well-publicized coronavirus cases at Life Care, she said.
“This environment has not been healthy for many, and I am fearful every single day that he may develop more symptoms … in this, I’m calling it, a Petri dish,” Holstad said.
Life Care Centers of America issues a statement
“Our clinical team is making personal, one-on-one telephone calls with family members to share information about loved ones and respond to questions,” Life Care Centers of America President Beecher Hunter said in a statement Thursday. “Communication is vital in the caregiving process and for keeping families abreast of developments in dealing with the coronavirus.”
“We grieve with the families who have lost loved ones; people who were important members of our professional family,” the statement said.
Life Care Centers of America has not responded to a request from CNN for responses to the specific concerns raised in the families’ press conference.
The families’ press conference took place shortly before Vice President Mike Pence – the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force – arrived in Washington state to meet with local health care leaders and Gov. Jay Inslee, and make a statement to the press.
Connolly says he wishes the vice president would also talk to the Life Care Center families. “They made time to speak with all of you [reporters],” Connolly stated. “Where is the time for the families?”
CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this story.