“They said she was fine…but we got a call at 2am. My Grandma had tested positive… And by then it was too late,” Antonia Rose, Cutler resident, explained how her grandmother was sent home from Linwood Meadows Care Center in Visalia even though she was positive for COVID-19.
Two weeks, ago the Valley Voice covered how COVID-19 spread to the residents through the staff at Lindsay Gardens in the article what happened at Lindsay Gardens. Since then, one of the original CNAs who sounded the alarm at the nursing home has come forward and an additional staff member has come forward to corroborate the story.
Linwood Meadows is also struggling with its own infection rate and Rose’s story puts a face to the challenges endured by senior citizens with COVID-19.
She didn’t understand why her family was staying so distant
On May 7th, Rose welcomed home her grandmother, a 94 year-old with dementia and a temporary resident of Linwood Meadows. Rose was happy to see her grandmother, but she was hesitant to make physical contact with her because of the outbreak at the facility in late April.
However, Linwood Meadows assured Rose they had tested her grandmother a couple of days prior and that she was, indeed, negative.
13 hours later, Rose’s family received a call from the facility. Staff informed her family that they had tested her grandmother again just before she left the facility. The results were back.
This time she was positive.
Rose and her family were devastated. They had spent more than half a day with her grandmother, thinking she was negative for the virus. Up to 10 people were possibly exposed: Rose, her mother and her husband, her uncle and his wife, a caregiver and four plumbers who happened to be working in the house that same day.
Four of those exposed are over the age of 70.
Fortunately, the facility sent Rose’s grandmother home with a cloth mask to discourage the potential spread of the virus. But the grandmother’s dementia left her struggling to comprehend her recent COVID-19 test results.
“Here’s my grandmother in the living room, positive, just spreading it,” Rose said.
Rose recalled her grandmother had trouble keeping her mask on and staying in her room. She could not understand why she was being isolated and why her family was being so distant. More than once, she would wander off to other parts of the house like the kitchen or the restroom without supervision.
After her positive diagnosis, an infectious disease nurse was dispatched from Linwood Meadows to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to the family. The nurse dropped off masks, gowns, and face shields and taught the family how to use the equipment provided. But that was the extent of the help.
Needless to say, the family was unsatisfied and asked the nurse how something like this could have happened. They told the nurse that the facility had potentially exposed up to 10 people and asked for an explanation.
The nurse did not provide any answers and replied with a seemingly rehearsed script that was stated each time they asked. Linwood Meadows had followed Tulare County guidelines, the nurse repeated.
That was the end of it.
But it wasn’t. Technically, Rose had done everything right. She had self-isolated for months by herself. She had socially distanced and only went out when necessary. And still, the virus invaded her house and her family.
“You just don’t ever know,” Rose said. “You can do everything right like I did and still get exposed.”
According to Rose, tests for the extended family were not provided by the facility and they had to seek testing on their own. Rose and most of her family have tested negative.
Although Rose’s family had concerns over the facility’s management of the situation, fears of a potential lawsuit have prevented all of them except Rose from speaking up.
Recently, medical professionals have advised the family that the grandmother no longer has the infection and her symptoms were limited to a mild cough, loss of taste, and fatigue.
But the weeks of isolation have been hard on the senior’s psychological well being.
“I’m just so depressed,” she cried into her palms as the caretaker attempted to take her vitals. “I’ve been inside this house all day every day.”
Linwood Meadow’s Administrator could not be reached for comment.
More Staff from Lindsay Gardens Speak Up
After the Valley Voice article investigating the spread of COVID-19 in Lindsay Gardens, two more CNA’s came forward, the first being one of the original CNA’s to walk out in late March after management allegedly refused to “take the virus seriously.”
The CNA, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that Tiffany Tassey’s testimony of Lindsay Gardens inspired her to speak up. But she was also coming forward to counter the comments made by the Lindsay Gardens administrator.
“The CNAs there are very hard workers,” she said. “What concerned me about the article was that the administration was not taking any responsibility. They don’t have the CNAs’ backs. [The administrator], excuse my language, was just trying to cover his ass along with the Director of Staff Development (DSD).”
She cited a coworker who was a contractor for Lindsay Gardens with a background in the emergency department. She stated that the contractor “was shocked by how unprepared [Lindsay Gardens] was when it came to infection control.”
She also confirmed the statements made by previous CNAs about management encouraging staff to keep working despite being symptomatic, risky dining policies, and lack of outreach after staff were sent home sick.
A second CNA spoke up as well.
Like the other CNAs that have come forward, fear was a driving factor for anonymity:
“Please don’t tell anyone I am reporting this…I want to keep reporting to you guys,” the CNA pleaded. “Because you guys really are our voice.”
The second CNA claimed that administration would not guarantee their job after 14 days of medical leave after they recovered from the infection. And that they “couldn’t file for medical leave because it wasn’t necessary to us caregivers.”
She went on to explain how management did not provide proper PPE. She wore the same mask for five days straight. It got the point she had to staple one of her masks together after it broke. The explanation? She claimed management was “stingy” with face shields and masks that CNAs needed.
The original CNA who walked off the job in March confirmed statements about improper usage and lack of PPE. She emphasized that CNAs tried to take care of their residents, but the administration made it difficult.
“I don’t want to say that the residents are not taken care of well,” she said. “If [administration] would have listened to us from the start, none of this would have happened.”
She believed that part of the issue was that the Administrator is very young and inexperienced man, leading him to turn to other management like the DSD and the Director of Nursing (DON) for guidance. Both the DSD and DON were known among CNAs for ignoring concerns, resident symptoms, and downplaying the virus.
According to the CNA, the young man did not become “acting administrator” until late March, only weeks before the first Lindsay Gardens COVID-19 outbreak.
Lindsay Gardens’ administrator could not be reached for comment. Lindsay Gardens currently has 114 total cases and 9 deaths.
The Bigger Picture
Nursing homes across the nation have become hotspots for COVID-19 infection. Although the official cause has yet to be determined, testimony from people like Antonia Rose and CNAs like Tiffany Tassey seem to parallel national speculation about the potential cause of the outbreaks.
A recent study by the Washington Post found that nearly half of 650 nursing homes across the nation violated federal infection control rules in recent years.
Speculation and concerns over nursing homes arrive just when Tulare County has made national news. Visalia was recently listed on the national COVID-19 hotspot watch list. VTD reported Tulare County was in the top five in the state with infection rates.
Governor Newsom specifically prohibited Tulare County from re-opening because it had too many cases, and that was true even without the nursing homes numbers.
Visalia Times Delta, reported Tulare County Supervisors Chairman Pete Vander Poel seemed to shift the blame on nursing homes, stating residents and local businesses should not be punished “because of a few bad actors.”
Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency released a statement on May 21 in regard to the re-opening that included a message from Tim Lutz, Director of the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency:
“We understand the risks associated with reopening while Tulare County continues to have spread of COVID-19 in our local nursing homes, businesses, and communities,” Lutz said. “We anticipate the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases will continue to rise; however, we acknowledge that the people of Tulare County need to get back to work and return to a sense of normalcy.”