TEMPE, AZ — The most vulnerable and impacted group in Arizona impacted by COVID-19 is the elderly. In Maricopa County, the last six COVID-19 deaths have come from long-term care facilities.
Right now though, the data is not being publicly regarding which nursing homes are being hit the hardest, leaving many families and friends wondering if their loved ones are safe in the quarantined facilities.
Shannon Parys adores her father Bill.
"He’s so warm and caring and just the best father I could’ve ever asked for really," said Parys, whose an only child.
After Bill's wife passed away in September, Shannon has been caring for her Dad.
"He had a stroke when he was very young and has survived almost 30 years," she said.
A few months ago, Shannon moved him to nearby Westchester Senior Living's Memory Care Unit in Tempe.
"I would go see my dad often. Several times a week," she said.
In March the visits have all been through a window or door. It was not ideal for a loving daughter, but Shannon was happy about the safety measure.
"I thought that was a really good sign that they were taking precautions," she said.
But then Shannon says she began noticing a trend.
"Nobody had any masks on, nobody had any protective equipment," she said, claiming that as recently as Monday, April 13 she witnessed caretakers without masks or gloves.
On Easter Sunday, she said her Dad appeared lethargic.
"I just noticed that he was really out of it, and was not himself."
On Monday, Parys knew something was terribly wrong.
"My dad was literally slumped over. Couldn’t talk, couldn’t open his eyes. He was just kind of salivating at the mouth.
She immediately called 911 and Tempe paramedics arrived to rush him to the Chandler Regional ER.
"He was admitted to the ICU Monday evening," said Parys. "It does look like he’s going to need to be on ventilation very soon.
Bill's story is, unfortunately, not unique.
Maricopa County has seen 42 coronavirus cases in long-term care facilities. 32 residents have already died.
Unlike other states though, Arizona's Department of Health Services is not releasing specific data from the facilities, citing privacy.
"The address where a facility where someone would live would be protected health information," said Dr. Cara Christ.
Maricopa County's Health Department will not share the numbers for each location either. They say the relationship with, and subsequent data from, the nursing homes are built on trust.
"It's important however to focus on making sure these facilities are comfortable reaching out and working with public health so they continue to share when they have suspect cases," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine.
Parys says she wants the facilities to be transparent and held accountable, not protected.
"I 100% blame his assisted living. They should’ve taken the precautions," she said.
Shannon says she has not slept in days and calls the nurses as often as she can.
"They’ve been putting the phone up. So I’ve gotten a couple I love you’s from my dad," said Parys, tears welling up in her eyes.
Bill's 75th birthday is this Sunday, April 19. Shannon does not care about the In-and-Out trip for a milkshake anymore.
She just wants him to make it to the weekend.
"I’m just praying that we can get him healthy, turn a corner, and celebrate very soon," she said.
Westchester Senior Living's parent company, Volunteers of America sent ABC15 an emailed statement confirming the COVID-19 case in Bill's unit.
They did not answer our questions about the staff's use of masks and PPE.
Parys said she is now worried about the other 15 people living in her father's unit. She says she wants to ensure they get tested and are kept safe.
A spokesperson for Volunteers for America told ABC15:
We have been notified that a resident in the Westchester Senior Living Tivoli Memory Care Unit has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, and is currently hospitalized. Our hearts go out to them and their family during this difficult time. Our staff has been following CDC protocols and working closely with local public health authorities. Out of privacy concerns for our residents, our employees and their families, we are unable to provide any additional information at this time.