COVID-19 testing limits contributed to 46 patient deaths at Virginia nursing home, physician says

At least 46 residents at a Virginia nursing home have died after contracting COVID-19, more than a fourth of the facility's total population and one of the highest known death tolls at a long-term care facility in the U.S., The New York Times reports.

After the first positive COVID-19 test was confirmed March 18 at Richmond, Va.-based Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, staff restricted visitors, checked every employee's temperature at the end of shifts and isolated sick residents. However, two weeks later, dozens of residents were infected.

The facility's medical director, Jim Wright, MD, PhD, said he asked the state health department how to test for a suspected COVID-19 case, but it wasn't until nearly two weeks later that all of the facility's residents were tested. At the time, Virginia only had about 300 test kits, and residents of long-term care facilities had to test negative for the flu and other respiratory viruses before being tested for COVID-19, said Danny Avula, MD, Richmond health director.  

"We could have limited the spread in Canterbury had we been able to test more," Dr. Avula said.

Of about 160 residents, more than 60 tested positive for COVID-19 when tests became available March 30, though about 50 of them were asymptomatic at the time.

The facility acknowledged that it was understaffed amid the crisis, and temporarily doubled nursing wages and tried to hire employees through third-party agencies, according to a statement from Jeremiah Davis, the facility's administrator.


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