As we are all aware by now, the Covid-19 (“coronavirus”) pandemic has been sweeping across the United States at an alarmingly fast rate. Unfortunately, for many residents of Louisiana the spread has been very unforgiving, especially in the southern part of the state.
While the spread has been rapid, nursing homes must act now to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives!
On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, it was reported that a nursing home in New Orleans, Château de Notre Dame, was identified as Louisiana’s third coronavirus “cluster.” Additionally, a fourth facility, St. James Place, located in Baton Rouge has one confirmed resident case, and is awaiting the outcome of a test on an employee before determining if they too are going to be similarly tagged as a coronavirus “cluster.”
In fact, at the time of this publication, Louisiana has now identified six nursing home “clusters” of coronavirus across Louisiana with some facilities unidentified; and sadly, the data suggests this number will likely increase over the coming weeks.
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (“DHH”) identifies a cluster as “a place where there have been multiple, connected cases of the novel coronavirus.” The majority of the cases in Louisiana are currently located in New Orleans and surrounding parishes.
DHH has also advised that 11 residents at Lambeth House in New Orleans are deceased as a result of the coronavirus. This data strongly suggests that elderly and infirmed individuals in nursing homes and residential facilities are at risk given their risk group status.
Moreover, authorities note that the “proliferation of coronavirus cases at nursing homes is of particular concern because of the propensity of the virus to cause severe illness and death in the elderly and people with underlying conditions,” a majority of which reside within nursing homes and residential facilities.
Indeed, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has requested that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) assist with the monitoring and care of nursing homes and residential facilities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
What a facility should do when there are coronavirus cases in their facility.
It is imperative that a nursing home, assisted living, or residential facility identified as a coronavirus “cluster” act quickly to ensure steps are being taken to prevent the spread of infection in order to save lives.
While these facilities cannot completely stop the coronavirus pandemic, if the facility has been infected with the coronavirus they owe a duty to its residents and their families to do whatever is necessary to stop the spread and to protect the elderly and infirmed that reside within their facilities.
Steps a nursing home, assisted living, or residential facility should take to prevent the spread of coronavirus and protect residents include:
- Immediately notify the local health department about the “cluster” of residents or workers with respiratory illnesses;
- Communicate possible exposure to all residents, workers, and visitors by placing signage around the facility, sending emails to residents’ families, and by letter to all residents;
- Isolate all residents to their rooms except for medically necessary purposes;
- If leaving the room, the resident should wear a facemask, perform hand hygiene, limit their movement, and stay at least six feet away from others;
- Monitor healthcare professionals before their shift by checking their temperature;
- Prevent healthcare professionals who are sick from working;
- Implement universal use of facemasks for healthcare professionals while in the facility;
- Have healthcare professionals wear all recommended personal protective equipment including gown, gloves, eye protection, and N95 respirator for the care of all patients;
- Clean and disinfect the facility thoroughly; and
- Follow all CDC guidelines including, but not limited to, when to discontinue isolation.
If you or someone you know has a loved one who resides in a nursing home or residential facility, it is imperative to follow the rules in place regarding procedures for visitors.
This generally means that outside visitors are not allowed in the facility; however, make sure that you continue to continuously contact your loved one via telephone call, email, and/or video conference to check in on them and to provide reassurance through this difficult time.
Additionally, if you have concerns about the actions taken by the facility in combating the spread of the virus, contact the facility to ensure the necessary steps are being taken to protect your loved one.
If you still don’t feel comfortable about the facility’s plan of action after contacting them, consider contacting the DHH to report your concerns. You can also seek the guidance of an experienced attorney if warranted.
The attorneys at Macaluso Law Firm, LLC have years of experience assisting and helping residents and their families in protecting their rights. Contact them today to schedule a completely free consultation if you or someone you know is concerned with the response a nursing home, assisted living, or residential facility is taking to the coronavirus.