As COVID-19, otherwise known as the novel coronavirus, makes its way throughout the United States, many vulnerable Indiana nursing home residents face the stark reality that they may be the next victim of the virus. Although the virus has been taking the lives of individuals of all ages and backgrounds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the virus is especially dangerous to people aged 65 and older and who have serious underlying medical conditions. Moreover, they warn that individuals who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities face a heightened risk of exposure and death. Indiana nursing homes may be liable for the spread of this and other diseases if they fail to exhibit appropriate precautions and abide by safety protocols.
Recent reports indicate that 15 residents and two staff members of an Indiana nursing home have been infected with the coronavirus. Out of the 15 total positive cases, one individual went home, and six others are isolated. Many more individuals experiencing symptoms are awaiting test results to determine whether they are carrying the virus. The nursing home came under criticism because they sent residents to local hospitals, potentially infecting many more people, instead of caring for those with minor symptoms on-site. They also admitted that they were not prepared to handle the outbreak of the virus when they first discovered that their residents were ill. The facility was in the process of putting together protocols, but at the time of the outbreak, they did not have plans of where an isolation unit should be. Additionally, they were still refining their cleansing and disinfecting protocols.
Despite the challenges that nursing homes often face containing the spread of viruses, they must make concerted efforts to ensure that their facilities are safe. Some common ways nursing homes can limit the spread of disease is to train their staff on hygiene and disease transmission, engage in deep disinfecting, and limit visitors. For example, some facilities only allow visitors who have not traveled internationally in the last two weeks, are not exhibiting any signs or symptoms of respiratory infections, and have not been in contact with someone with or thought to have COVID-19. Facilities may face liability for the injuries and deaths of their residents if they fail to engage in these practices.