KIRKLAND, Washington — Dorothy Campbell, 88, stood and waited in front of a window at a Washington state nursing home. On the other side of the glass sat her 89-year-old husband, Gene, speaking to her from a phone.
He’s a patient at Life Care Center in Kirkland, a long-term care facility, and it’s the only way they can communicate while Gene remains quarantined at the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the US.
The photo is emblematic of the divide between those still inside the facility and their concerned family members waiting just outside, separated by walls and glass.
At least eight of the state’s 70 cases have been linked to the center. And of the 13 deaths reported in the state so far, seven of them were Life Care Center residents. More than 50 of the center’s residents and staff are being tested for the novel coronavirus, while family and friends of the 108 patients there have been barred from visiting.
Dorothy spoke to Gene through his room window, held up by her son Charlie, a retired nurse.
CNN’s calls to Charlie Campbell went unanswered. But he and his mother aren’t the first to attempt contact with quarantined residents.
Bonnie Holstad’s husband, Ken, is a Life Care Center resident. He has Parkinson’s disease, dementia and a cough. She can’t visit him because of the ban on visitors.
She’s repeatedly called the center about her husband’s condition with no response. So she took to standing outside holding a sign, pleading for answers.
“No one at Life Care is answering the phones,” her sign read. “He needs to be attended to … what’s his temperature?”
Residents’ families demand answers
Families of Life Care Center patients held a press conference after the run of resident deaths. But two recent deaths have not been attributed to the novel coronavirus — and it’s raising concerns about how quickly the center can respond.
Pat Herrick said a nurse called her and told her that her mother Elaine died at the center on Thursday. But Elaine was never tested for the coronavirus, Herrick said.
Mike Weatherhill told reporters that his mother Louise died earlier this week shortly after she was tested for the virus, but the center didn’t get the results back to confirm whether she had the virus.
“Everybody just moved too slow to recognize the virus,” he said.
The nursing home’s owner issued a new written statement following the press conference.
“Our clinical team is making personal, one-on-one telephone calls with family members to share information about loved ones and respond to questions,” reads a statement attributed the Life Care Centers of America President Beecher Hunter. “Communication is vital in the caregiving process and for keeping families abreast of developments in dealing with the coronavirus.”
“We grieve with the families who have lost loved ones; people who were important members of our professional family,” the new statement from Beecher Hunter reads. Life Care Centers of America has not responded to a request from CNN for responses to the specific concerns raised in the families’ press conference.