The Stone Valley Alzheimer's Special Care Center in Reno, Nevada, asked two employees who had tested positive for COVID-19 to come to work anyway due to "intense staffing shortages." The news caused an explosive reaction when it went public in a report by local NBC News affiliate My News 4. A spokeswoman for the facility confirmed the report.
The two staff members lived together and had both volunteered to work at Stone Valley over the Fourth of July holiday weekend before they tested positive for the coronavirus. Regional director of operation, Kena Phillips, said that "it was [her] understanding" that these two staffers would only be working with coronavirus-positive residents. Therefore, it did not seem like a problem to ask them to come into work if they were able, even with the virus. As of Tuesday morning, Nevada's state website showed 22 total cases of COVID-19 in the Stone Valley facility — 11 among residents and nine among staff.
The story drew backlash at once, and Phillips soon published a response with many additional details. She said that the two employees had volunteered to work in spite of their coronavirus diagnoses and had not been asked as was first reported. They were reportedly asymptomatic.
She pointed out that all employees of Stone Valley have been tested for COVID-19 multiple times after the first staff member tested positive on June 16. Several positive results came back at once on June 23 and July 3. All positive employees were sent home to quarantine, leaving the facility woefully understaffed.
"Without the necessary staff, our Assisted Living and Memory Care residents would not receive the level of amplified level of care needed to keep them safe and properly cared for. Additionally, we were advised that we would not be able to transport our asymptomatic residents to local hospitals as they were reserving beds for the most serious cases," read Phillips' statement.
Phillips further said that the decision to have these employees come to work before their two-week quarantine was up had been discussed with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. Finally, she said that Stone Valley "exhaust[ed] every possibility of finding staff members who would come in and work' before making the decision to ask infected workers."
Despite Phillips' claims, two employees spoke on the condition of anonymity with My News 4 on Monday, saying that conditions in Stone Valley are heart-breaking. They expressed serious fears for the safety and survival of all the residents there. So far, Stone Valley's parent company, Sunshine Retirement Living, has not made a public response to these reports.