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Breaking Down The Law: COVID-19 in the nursing home

COVID-19 Outbreaks in Las Vegas Nursing Homes

In the last few weeks there have been reports of two Las Vegas valley nursing homes having major outbreaks of the Coronavirus.

One facility, Heights of Summerlin, has reported 26 deaths from the disease, and nursing homes account for approximately 20% of all COVID-19 deaths in Nevada.

Recently, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services released an investigative report detailing a Coronavirus outbreak at another long-term care facility, Horizon Health and Rehabilitation.

The investigation started in early April, and the report details many alleged failures by the facility.

In total, 38 residents at Horizon have tested positive for COVID-19, and 7 have died. Meanwhile, 37 staff members have tested positive with the disease.

Here to discuss this outbreak is attorney Matt Hoffmann with Battle Born Injury Lawyers.

Thanks, etc.

1.         What are the some of the State’s findings about the Horizon facility and how long did this go on?

-           According to the report, investigators went to the facility starting in early April.

-           The facility did not follow federal guidelines to isolate patients known or suspected to have COVID-19 in a quarantine wing with designated staffers.

-           But the worst finding, in my opinion, is that residents exposed to the disease were moved into rooms with people who hadn’t been exposed.

            -           So the facility knew a resident had been exposed to COVID-19, but instead of isolating them they put them in a shared room with another resident who was fine, and instead of having a dedicated staff to deal with COVID-19 patients, all the staff dealt with all the patients.

            -           And the result is horrible. 38 residents tested positive. 37 staff members tested positive. 7 residents have died.

-           And I suspect the outbreak at Heights of Summerlin had similar practice mistakes, which led to the massive amount of deaths at that facility.

2.         So the obvious question is how could this happen here after all we saw early on with outbreaks in Washington state, New Jersey, and New York? Who is to blame for this?

-           That’s a fair question.

-           These facilities obviously have tremendous liability for their inaction.

            -           This outbreak has clearly exposed what many have suspected for years when it comes to these facilities having shoddy practices.

            -           And I think one of the biggest reasons for this is that family were no longer allowed to be at the facilities - because family are usually the biggest advocates for their loved ones. So with nobody there to speak up for these elderly residents, this is what happens.


-           What is baffling to me is we know that the very first cluster of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. was at a nursing home, Life Care Centers of America in Kirkland, Washington.

            -           And it was lethal, which is what led to what we now know to be a massive over-estimate of the potential deaths from COVID-19.

-           But despite the fact it was known - early on - that this disease spread like wildfire in nursing homes, we have had massive outbreaks in other states since, including New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota.

            -           In Minnesota, nursing homes account for over 80% of all COVID-19 deaths.

-           Some states, like Florida, immediately went into action at nursing homes, getting involved aggressively to basically force facilities to test and quarantine anyone with the disease.

-           But other states, with Nevada apparently being one of them, either investigated things after the fact or, in the case of New York, forced these facilities to admit residents who tested positive for COVID-19.

-           So while the facilities themselves are clearly liable for their inaction in protecting their residents, it is more than fair to criticize the State for not doing more to get boots on the ground early on at these facilities in a proactive way.

            -           Instead, the State’s resources have been spent investigating the outbreaks after they happened.

            -           Again, we’ve known since the very beginning of this outbreak that nursing homes were ground zero for COVID-19, and the State clearly has the staffing in place to investigate facilities - why those resources were not used early on to take proactive measures to help prevent this from happening in the first place is beyond concerning.