Family of COVID-19 victim demands answers about outbreak at long-term care center

Published: Apr. 10, 2020 at 11:29 AM EDT
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The family of a 71-year-old who died after contracting COVID-19 at a long-term care facility in Henrico is demanding answers as to what more could have been done to prevent the outbreak.

Canterbury Rehabilitation and Health Care in Henrico County reported Thursday that at least 39 people had died from COVID-19 after six residents, including six within the past 24 hours at that point.

"Now I don’t have my dad and others don’t have their loved ones,” said Roslyn Pearson.

Pearson is mourning her father, Ralph. The 71-year-old was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week and died Wednesday at Canterbury.

“There still remains questions on what they could have done differently to prevent this tragedy of unnecessary loss of lives," said Pearson.

Loved by all, Pearson came to the facility about a year ago. He had underlying medical issues and died without his family around him in person – but they were able to use FaceTime and see him the night before he died.

“It was hard to see him laying in the bed and not responsive,” said Pearson. “That was the last time I saw my dad.”

The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts Director Dr. Danny Avula says Canterbury was the area’s first coronavirus cluster.

Avula says the initial response was complicated by evolving guidance on how to handle long-term care facilities early on.

“That came at a time where we were still learning how this disease acts. That we had significant limitations in terms of testing kit capacity. We had serious and continue to have limitations in access to personal protective equipment,” said Avula.

The health director says the facility did everything within its power to prepare for the pandemic. Canterbury began restricting visitors and screening staff in early March.

Now, 84 residents have tested positive for the virus and 25 health care workers are positive too. The facility said in a statement many of the positive residents are asymptomatic. Others are experiencing symptoms from severe to mild. A total of 35 residents have tested negative for COVID-19.

“There’s nothing I can point to that says why did this happen first at Canterbury and not at other facilities,” said Dr. Avula.

But now it’s little comfort for the Pearsons who now have to prepare for a funeral in a world of social distancing.

“It’s sad because right now our family can’t be with us to mourn his passing,” said Pearson.

Avula does believe the virus either came in with a healthcare worker or on several residents who recently returned from hospital stays.

He says the solution is to treat each resident at a place like Canterbury as if they are in isolation, but sadly there are not enough resources to do that.