Mistaken for Flu, Limited Preventive Measures Taken against Coronavirus Outbreak
COVID-19 Seattle-Area Nursing Home

According to articles by The Washington Post and The New York Times, on Feb. 19 a resident of Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., had been sent to the hospital with what was suspected to be a nasty case of the flu. For more than a week the home had been ravaged by a respiratory illness, one that looked very much like flu epidemics the home had seen before. Visitors were discouraged, but not prohibited, beginning February 10, and it was otherwise business as usual inside the facility, with new patients being admitted and social events held, some conducted by outside entertainers.

The Seattle area had been on high alert for another illness, COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, since Jan. 21, when the first case of COVID-19 had been announced in Snohomish County, neighbor to Kings County where Kirkland is situated. Despite this alert, says the Post, and in spite of a Feb. 21 letter by a senior state health official urging all nursing homes to ready for an outbreak of the coronavirus, Kirkland’s Life Care managers persisted in their belief that influenza was behind the growing illness within their facility. A second resident was hospitalized on Feb. 24.

On Feb. 27 Life Care Center reported to Kings County authorities an “increase in respiratory illness.”  The Post reported that only when county officials ascertained that about 20 residents had fallen sick and none had tested positive for the flu, was an investigation begun. On Feb. 29, two COVID-19 cases related to Life Care—an employee in her 40s and a resident in her 70s—were announced. The two residents sent to the hospital were also later confirmed to have the coronavirus.

According to The Times, the response within Life Care following the confirmation of COVID-19 cases was characterized by confusion and holdups as the facility struggled—too late—to contain the spread of the virus and to obtain tests to determine which patients had already been infected.

As of March 21, 81 residents—two-thirds of its population—and 47 workers from the facility have tested positive for COVID-19. 35 people have died.

According to the Post, a 2019 inspection revealed Kirkland’s Life Care Center to have hygiene deficiencies that “placed residents at risk for harm and transmitting/acquiring infections.” These issues were reportedly corrected later in the year to the satisfaction of government inspectors.

It has yet to be determined how the virus was originally spread to the home.

Does Your Loved One’s Nursing Home Meet State Safety Standards?

It’s more important than ever to ensure the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one resides meets all criteria for hygienic and other forms of safety. If you have questions about the quality of a Philadelphia/PA or NJ facility or you suspect neglect or abuse has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.