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13 residents at Chandler assisted living facility have died from COVID-19 complications, 14 others test positive

Pennington Gardens Assisted Living Facility
Posted at 3:49 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 00:08:34-04

CHANDLER, AZ — Update on 4/22: ABC15 has learned 14 residents have now died. Two are currently in the hospital. And 13 infected residents are being cared for at the facility.

More than a dozen residents at a Chandler assisted living facility have died due to complications from COVID-19, according to emails sent to families.

FULL COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Arizona

A spokesperson for Compass Living, the parent company that runs Pennington Gardens in Chandler, confirmed that 14 residents have died.

The spokesperson said the facility has ramped up personal protection use, cleaning, testing, and monitoring residents and staff for symptoms.

They are also sending out daily updates about both residents and caregivers who have tested positive.

According to those emails, an additional 15 residents have also tested positive for the virus. Two are in the hospital and 13 remain under quarantine in their apartments. Eight more are awaiting test results.

The number of cases has rapidly increased in a matter of days.

On April 9, the facility did not report any deaths to residents. On April 16, a Pennington Gardens' manager emailed families letting them know eight residents had passed away due to coronavirus. Three days later, another email saying 13 people had died.

The 13 deaths account for 28 percent of Maricopa County's assisted living facility deaths and six percent of Arizona's total COVID-19 related deaths.

RELATED: 21 new coronavirus deaths reported in Arizona in last 24 hours

"It was 100% preventable. Maybe not the first death, but definitely all the rest," said Christine Burke.

Burke pulled her mom, who has dementia, from Pennington Gardens on April 13 after she heard coronavirus had made its way in the building.

"When I spoke to the facility director the next day, I was told that there were only 50 masks and 70 employees and none for the residents," she said.

An employee on the inside confirmed to ABC15 fthe rationed PPE. That employee, who has asked to remain anonymous, says she has since tested positive herself. She is one of nine employees who has also contracted the virus.

Burke said the lockdown implemented was lax. "Certain resident's families were coming in, new residents were coming in, caregivers were working at other facilities with COVID positive patients," said Burke. "I said that’s it, I have to protect her. They aren’t protecting her."

Arizona's AARP Director Dana Kennedy says the information about cases inside these facilities needs to be shared publicly by the state.

"I think in this time we need more communication, not less," said Kennedy. "And we need to put families before facilities."

The state and county still will not release specifics. Maricopa County Department of Health only saying 75 assisted living facilities now have at least one case. And at last check, they said 80 percent of those facilities have five cases or less.

"This is the best nightmare out of the two," said Burke, who is now caring for her mom full-time at home.

Burke said she is grateful she was able to pick her mother up in a car, and her heart breaks for all those driven out in an ambulance or a coroner's van.

"I ate and spent time with them while I was there," she said. "And I would like to know from the county or the state what happened."

The Chandler zip code in particular, 85224, is a hot spot. It has 63 cases in total, and a 46% increase in cases since Easter. There are other assisted living facilities in the area.

MAP: Coronavirus cases in Arizona by zip code

ABC15 is continuing to report on long-term care facilities and the spread of COVID-19. If you have information about a facility, you can email zach.crenshaw@abc15.com