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Nursing home employee devastated after testing positive for COVID-19 alongside another elderly resident

Westchester Senior Living
Posted at 9:41 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 01:19:59-04

TEMPE, AZ  — ABC15 has uncovered three cases of coronavirus in a 16-person unit of a Valley nursing home.

Two elderly residents are fighting for their lives in the ICU. An employee also tested positive and she is furious that the facility did not provide personal protection equipment to protect its most vulnerable.

Beverly Schwartz is hooked up to oxygen machines at Tempe St. Luke's. They are helping the 84-year-old breathe and hold-off this deadly virus.

Her daughter though, is unsure she will ever see her Mom alive again.

At Westchester Care Center's Memory Care Unit, there is yellow caution tape. But inside, relatives and employees tell ABC15 their response to COVID-19 has been characterized by a lack of caution.

"Nobody had any masks on, nobody had any protective equipment," said Shannon Parys.

Wednesday ABC15 reported on Parys' father, Bill O'Brien, who contracted COVID-19 while isolated in his room. He is now on a ventilator.

"We had no PPE, we had no gloves, we had no masks," said the employee. "They locked it up...They said we are going to scare of the residence and we looked ridiculous," said an employee who asked to remain anonymous.

The employee said many have felt powerless to speak out about their concerns.

"I didn’t have the proper gear to protect not only myself but the residents," she said. "Myself and other workers all gathered together and we started shedding tears because nobody would listen to us.

The employee knew Bill well and interacted with him. She told ABC15 Friday evening that her COVID-19 test came back positive, and that she is concerned for her entire family.

Bill's neighbor and friend in the unit is Beverly Schwartz. "On occasion [staff] would see them holding hands," said Debi, Beverly's daughter.

Schwartz, like Bill, started acting lethargic this week. Her daughter, like Bill's, had to make the call to rush their parent to the ER in an ambulance.

"When I heard that, I knew it was more than likely, just a matter of time," said Debi.

Beverly has breathing issues and other health conditions. "It didn’t have to happen," said Debi. "She is most likely not going to survive it."

Now Debi is left wondering how her Mom was infected weeks after visitors were shut off from the building.

Bill is supposed to turn 75 this Sunday. Beverly's 85th birthday is in about two weeks.

Both families are now praying they reach those numbers. As opposed to becoming one on the state's website.

ABC15 repeatedly asked a Westchester Senior Living spokesperson to respond to questions about PPE, testing of residents and staff, and other safety and reporting measures.

A spokesperson responded via email Friday evening with the following: "We’re aware of this situation and are looking into it, but we don’t have anything more we can say at this time."