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Cases and deaths continue to rise in Valley assisted living facilities; specific data still not being shared publicly

Valley nursing home
Posted at 9:40 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 16:50:37-04

One of the groups continuing to suffer most from COVID-19 is elderly residents of long-term care facilities.

Officials say 81 assisted living facilities in Maricopa County have at least one COVID-19 case among their residents or staff.

Seventy percent of 556 total cases are residents. Fifteen percent of the elderly patients infected, 56 total, have passed away.

Pennington Gardens in Chandler has had 14 of their residents die from complications with COVID-19, with two more in the hospital.

The facility certainly has one of the most significant outbreaks among Maricopa County assisted living facilities. But it is unclear where other hot spots may be, since the county and state are not sharing data specific to locations.

Esther Gerosaga has lived at Bethesda Gardens in north Phoenix for eight years. "She’s schizophrenic, so she’s unable to live by herself," said sister Deborah Lawton.

Lawton is now wondering if she should pull her sister out of the facility, after learning they have a COVID-19 case in the nearby memory care unit.

"I’m fearful, I’m terrified for her health, and I don’t know what to do," said Lawton.

Lawton is one of countless family members scared her loved one could contract coronavirus at an assisted living facility.

"It’s just an unfortunate recipe where you’ve got a lot of people in a confined space, who are already susceptible to a disease that is transmitted very easily," said Heather Macre, a healthcare attorney with Fennemore Craig.

Macre says some facilities were more prepared with PPE and have more money to pay for testing and supplies.

"There’s resource problems and we’re also dealing with socio-economic factors that are impacting this and you’re also dealing with that perfect environment for transmission," she said.

For Bethesda Senior Living Facilities, the COVID-19 case at Bethesda Gardens is their first and only across 21 facilities.

Already they are testing all the residents and staff, disinfecting everything with professional cleaning crews, and working to prevent any spread throughout the vulnerable community.

Other facilities, like Lake Pleasant in Peoria, confirming to ABC15 the existence of cases but will not say how many residents are infected.

The state and county are not sharing those specifics publicly either.

"We are working with the facilities so that they can notify the direct residents and their families who are impacted," said Dr. Cara Christ, at Wednesday's press conference.

Notification changed across the country on Sunday when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services changed requirements so that every assisted living facility must report COVID-19 cases to the C-D-C. Facilities must also notify residents within 12 hours, as well as their families or caretakers.

"If you have a loved one and one of these nursing homes and they contract COVID-19, you will be notified immediately," said Governor Ducey.