Nursing Home Compared to 'War Zone' Following Coronavirus Outbreak

During the coronavirus pandemic, nursing home deaths have made up a shockingly high portion of the death toll. According to a New York Times report, a third of all U.S. coronavirus deaths are nursing home residents or workers. It is also an issue in Canada, where one nursing home worker described an Ontario facility as a "war zone" after the virus broke out at the facility.

Sarah Gardiner, a registered nurse for more than three decades, described the horrors she saw one weekend at the Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, a community north or Toronto, in late March. By the end of the first weekend following the facility's first coronavirus case, 10 people died, reports The World. Within two weeks, 29 residents, almost half the number of people living at the facility, and one volunteer caregariver died.

"There was so much confusion. There was so much stuff everywhere. It felt like a war zone," Gardiner told The World. "The minute we dealt with one person's death, then there was someone else down the hall who looked like they were really, really close and we better get on the phone and make sure the family is aware that this is probably quite imminent. And do we have the right medication? I have to call the doc and get them some morphine... There was just no time. It just kept coming and coming and coming."

The horrible scene at Pinecrest is not a rarity. On April 13, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said that almost half of all COVID-19 deaths in the country were at seniors' homes, reports CBC News. In Ontario and Quebec, the two most populated provinces, elderly-patients at seniors' homes made up two-thirds of all coronavirus-related deaths at the time. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are 69,964 confirmed coronavirus cases in Canada as of Sunday, and 4.982 deaths.

"This is a sector in our society that has been neglected for years if not decades," Dr. Nathan Stall, geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, told The World. "It's sort of a perfect storm for catastrophe, really."

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On Sunday, the New York Times reported that one-third of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are nursing home residents or workers, based on available data. At least 27,700 residents and workers have died, while more than 150,000 are infected at 7,700 facilities. Some states are reporting cumulative data on cases and deaths at facilities on a regular basis, while others are only releasing data on cases, not deaths. About a dozens states are reporting very little data or nothing. The Times based its numbers on data from states, counties and individual facilities.

New York has the most reported deaths, with 5,380 at 430 facilities, making up 20 percent of the state's total death toll. In West Virginia, 80 percent of its total deaths from the coronavirus were nursing home residents or workers, with 43 deaths reported at 27 facilities. New Jersey, one of the states reporting the most comprehensive data, has reported 4,825 nursing home deaths, making up 52 percent of its death toll from the virus.