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Articles Posted in Coronavirus

coronavirus-4936055_1920-300x193Almost 90 new brands have been added to the FDA’s updated list of possibly toxic hand sanitizers. The FDA believes these hand sanitizers contain methanol, a toxic chemical that can be absorbed through the skin. If ingested, methanol can kill you. 

According to the FDA, all but one of the possibly hazardous hand sanitizers were manufactured in Mexico. The singular hand sanitizer brand not manufactured in Mexico is from Leiper’s Fork Distillery in Tennessee.

The FDA is warning consumers to steer clear of hand sanitizers on their list, which you can view here

The FDA is taking steps to try and prevent these hazardous products from entering the U.S. by placing them on an important alert. But even with this alert, these hand sanitizers brands are still finding their way on the shelves of popular retail stores like Costco, Walmart, and Target. 

As coronavirus lingers in the U.S., hand sanitizer is still a very popular product. With schools slated to reopen soon and numerous other professionals heading back into work on a full or part-time basis, hand sanitizer is a huge must have for many people who may not be able to wash their hands with soap and water as often as they’d like. While the CDC urges people to wash their hands with soap and water as frequently as possible to reduce the spread of germs, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can reduce the amount of germs on your hands which in turn can help you avoid getting sick or spreading any germs to others. 

If you have any of the potentially poisonous hand sanitizers in your possession, the FDA says to stop using them immediately and toss any leftovers into hazardous waste containers. You should not flush or pour any of these toxic products down the drain.

Methanol poisoning can be fatal, which is why the warnings regarding these hand sanitizer brands are so urgent. If you have used any of the brands listed from the FDA, you should check in with your medical provider right away to make sure you have not been exposed to methanol. If you have been exposed to methanol, the following symptoms might be noticed: 

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Blindness
  • Vomiting
  • Death
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Ingesting hand sanitizers or using them as an alcohol substitute places you at heightened risk for methanol poisoning. You want to keep all hand sanitizers away from any babies and young children who may get their hands on these products and accidentally drink them. 

We all want to do our part to stop the spread of coronavirus, which is why hand sanitizer is a must-have item in your home, car, office, purse, etc. Our Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton want everyone to stay healthy and safe, which is why we are urging everyone to stay up to date on FDA recalls and always read your labels so you know what you are putting on your body. Remember, you want to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethanol.

Methanol poisoning is quite serious, and as we have pointed out, can be deadly. Methanol is a toxic alcohol that is mostly used as a fuel source or a pesticide. After being exposed to methanol, it could take 1 to 72 hours for symptoms to present themselves, but once medical treatment is administered methanol poisoning can be reversed. 

If someone you love has suffered from methanol poisoning due to a dangerous hand sanitizer, our Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here to help hold the manufacturer of these dangerous brands responsible for their negligence. We can discuss your injuries or the death of a loved one with you and help you understand what your options are for pursuing financial compensation. 

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sanitizing-5095967_1920-300x184The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to consumers across the U.S. to stop using 9 brands of hand sanitizer as they may contain methanol, also known as wood alcohol, which is a substance that has very serious side effects when it is ingested or absorbed through the skin. 

You can view the list of the 9 brands of hand sanitizer manufactured by the Mexican company Eskbiochem here

This alert is alarming because of the fact that the coronavirus is still lingering across the U.S., which has increased the demand of hand sanitizers. The coronavirus pandemic has many people using more hand sanitizer when they cannot wash their hands with soap and water. 

The FDA issued its warning on Friday after the agency tested samples of products that contain methanol, which is toxic, so it should not be used in hand sanitizers. 

The FDA is requesting that consumers stop using any of these dangerous hand sanitizers right away and throw any unused product into hazardous waste containers. 

The FDA says to not flush or pour any hand sanitizers down the drain. 

Methanol poisoning can be toxic, so if any consumers have used any of the 9 brands the FDA is warning about, they should seek medical care right away. According to the FDA, prolonged exposure to methanol can cause: 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Permanent blindness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Death

Anyone who ingests these hand sanitizers or consumes them as an alcohol substitute are at highest risk for methanol poisoning, according to the FDA.

Everyone wants to stop the spread of COVID-19, which is why hand sanitizer has been a staple. Now, it is very important that we check our brand of sanitizer so that we can steer clear of methanol poisoning. Our Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton urge you to read the label on your sanitizer carefully and check the FDA website regularly to stay up to date on recalls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), consumers should use alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% ethanol.

Methanol poisoning from hand sanitizer is very serious. Methanol is a type of toxic alcohol that is commonly used as a pesticide or fuel source. The CDC says that symptoms of methanol poisoning may not be apparent for 1 to 72 hours after exposure. The good news is that methanol poisoning can be reversed if medical treatment is administered. 

Whittel & Melton Can Help 

If you or someone you love has suffered harm due to methanol poisoning, our Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help. The FDA has said that those most at risk are those that drink the toxic hand sanitizers. Babies and toddlers that get a hold of these sanitizer bottles can easily ingest the toxic chemicals and suffer methanol poisoning. Make sure you are keeping these products out of a young child’s reach. 

The company/manufacturer that makes these dangerous products can be held responsible for any injuries or deaths that result. We are here to help review the facts of your case and fight to secure financial compensation for your suffering. 

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disposal-5021447_1920-300x200Johnson & Johnson recently released the news that they will not be selling their infamous talc-based baby powder any longer in the US and Canada. 

Why? According to their website, the novel coronavirus urged them to rethink their product in March, and lead to them stopping shipments to the US and Canada. They claim the purpose of this was to place a priority on more in demand products and maintain social distancing measures in their distribution centers and manufacturing facilities. 

The company said there has been a decline in the demand for nearly 100 products, including their talc-based baby powder. Johnson & Johnson does have a cornstarch-based powder that will continue to be sold on retail stores shelves. 

coronavirus-4817431_1920-300x80There have been 1,502 deaths of residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida, according to a new report. This is an increase of 145 deaths in just one week. 

However, reports are showing that the weekly death rate is slowing down. Last week was a 10.7% increase, but still a decrease from 14.1% for the period of May 29 to June 5. 

Records indicate that 10 employees at these facilities have died since March. 

covid-19-4855709_640-300x200As COVID-19 continues to keep most of the world on lockdown with ‘Safer at Home’ orders extended, there are many people still stranded on cruise ships. It has been reported that some cruise lines are currently working with the CDC to resolve the current “No Sail Order” and problem releasing their crew members.

While there are literally thousands of crew members left stranded at sea with no known date of when they can set foot on land, the sad reality is that they can continue to contract the novel coronavirus while being trapped and quarantined aboard a cruise ship. 

Perhaps the most troubling piece of information is that recent reports have indicated that the cruise line industry knew about the coronavirus problem on their ships, but continued to sail anyways. This neglect on their part very well could have helped fuel this crisis, causing countless individuals to become infected. With that said, if you contracted coronavirus or lost a loved one due to COVID-19 onboard a cruise ship, you may be able to join a class-action lawsuit with other crew and passengers infected with COVID-19.

covid-19-4855709_640-300x200In early 2020 the coronavirus began spreading across the world leaving millions of people in one of the most dangerous and isolated places during a pandemic: a cruise ship.

It is unknown how many passengers and crew got sick or died from COVID-19. No global health body or regulatory agency is known to be tracking those statistics as of now, but we know the numbers will be alarming.

The cruise industry downplayed the dangers to consumers and kept sending out ships despite outbreaks on board and warnings from public health officials. This industry has stayed pretty silent about the death toll.

However, the Miami Herald began tracking outbreaks on board. As of publication, reporters found that at least 2,592 people have tested positive for COVID-19 during or directly after a cruise and at least 65 people have died, according to a database built by the Herald. That is far more than the industry or public health officials have acknowledged. It’s also likely not the complete picture.

The Herald found COVID-19 cases linked to at least 54 ocean-going cruise ships — roughly one-fifth of the global ocean cruise fleet. That number could grow as more cases are reported.

Reporters gathered the data using records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foreign health departments, news reports, cruise companies and interviews with passengers and crew.

The cruise industry notes that it is possible that some of these people got COVID-19 from a source other than the ship they were on. It is also likely that other passengers and crew contracted the virus without developing symptoms or getting tested.

It is clear that passengers and crew paid the price for the industry’s decision to keep travel going. In early February the Diamond Princess ship was sequestered in Japan after a COVID-19 outbreak that left hundreds infected. This was a clear warning about how dangerous the new coronavirus is on cruise ships.

On March 8, the CDC alerted Americans to stay away from cruising, citing increased risk of COVID-19. Regardless of the warnings, some cruise ships left port on passenger voyages after the travel advisory. At least eight of those ships logged cases of COVID-19, resulting in at least 309 cases of the disease, or 12% of the total known cruise-related cases, the Herald analysis shows. At least three of those people died.

Some ships carried the disease from one cruise to the next. After the disease broke out on the first voyage, the number of cases generally exploded on the subsequent voyages.

While some passengers went straight to the hospital, many sick people returned to their homes, sometimes on commercial flights. Meanwhile, thousands of crew members found themselves marooned at sea in quarantine. As of publication, at least 922 crew members have been infected and at least 11 have died from COVID-19.

The CDC issued a no-sail order in U.S. waters on March 14 — one day after the industry had already agreed to stop new cruises. But cruises still underway continued, sometimes searching for weeks for a port that would accept the ships.

Ships with COVID-19 cases come from all four of the world’s largest cruise lines: Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings — all based in Miami — and MSC Cruises, along with a number of smaller lines.

A male passenger from Miami reluctantly boarded Carnival’s Costa Luminosa cruise in Fort Lauderdale on March 5. He was nervous about COVID-19, but the company wasn’t offering refunds. The cruise was scheduled to go to Puerto Rico and Antigua before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

Three days into the cruise, a woman with COVID-19 symptoms was taken off the ship and hospitalized in Puerto Rico. Antigua turned the ship away, and instead of returning to port in Florida, Carnival decided to sail the Luminosa to Europe. The company waited seven days to isolate passengers and give crew members masks and gloves even as more and more people got sick. At least four passengers and one crew member died. Dozens more fell ill, the Herald’s data shows.

The man and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 after disembarking. They both recovered.

Since the pandemic began, the industry has tried to downplay the severity of the crisis.

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise company, has maintained that “very few” ships have been affected by COVID-19. (At the time of publication, 17 percent of the company’s ships have been linked to coronavirus.)

“Cruise ships are not the cause of the virus, nor are they the reason for the spread in society,” Donald said last week. “It’s not a dramatic impact compared to how the community spread occurred around the world.”

In an April 15 interview with CNBC, Donald said that passengers in many cases “are at far less risk in a cruise environment than other environments.”

“We have really high standards on cruise ships in dealing with any kind of health risk,” he said. “You don’t go to many places where you have medical records, where there is temperature scanning, there’s lots of deep cleaning going on often and all the time.”

The CDC has warned repeatedly of the increased risk of COVID-19 infection on cruise ships, saying social distancing and thorough disinfecting are difficult to implement on board.

As the rest of the world watched the coronavirus consume China, still unaware of the severity of the sickness, the cruise industry was right there to witness the catastrophic reality.

In mid-February, the largest coronavirus outbreak outside of China engulfed Carnival’s Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in a Japanese port. Hundreds fell sick. At least eight people died.

In response, companies restricted boarding to exclude people who had recently traveled to China, Hong Kong and Macau. But cruise ships were business as normal. Here’s how it went down, according to the Herald’s report:

The week of Feb. 25

Caribbean countries began turning away cruise ships, a clear sign of what was to come.

By the time the industry closed down weeks later, several ships would be stranded at sea with dying people on board and nowhere to dock.

March 7

Even as the pandemic worsened, the Trump administration stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the cruise companies.

Meeting with industry executives in Fort Lauderdale, one of the busiest U.S. ports, Vice President Mike Pence assured the nation it was “safe for healthy Americans to travel.”

Adam Goldstein, CLIA’s chairman, said the companies were prepared to pay for the transfer of sick passengers and crew to hospitals.

“Given the significance of travel and tourism, it is critical that Americans keep traveling,” Goldstein said. “And yes, we also recognize this is an unprecedented situation with COVID-19. Our commitment here today and going forward is to work closely with government and go above and beyond what we are currently doing.”

That day, one person who worked at Port Everglades as a passenger greeter for a Carnival Corp. subcontractor tested positive, followed by two more in the following days.

Reluctant passengers who didn’t want to lose their money boarded cruise ships, trusting that companies would not be operating if it weren’t safe. Cruise companies weren’t offering refunds, but they were upping cleaning routines on ships and denying boarding to people who had recently traveled to disease hotspots.

Crew members had no choice but to return to sea.

March 8

The CDC and the State Department alerted all Americans to avoid cruise travel, citing an increased risk of COVID-19 infection on ships. At least 1,791 passengers and crew on cruises that left before the advisory were infected, the Herald’s analysis shows.

March 9

The morning after the travel alert, cruisers still came to PortMiami to fill out health questionnaires so they could board.

Despite the clear CDC warning, the White House’s coronavirus task force said that the cruise lines were working on stronger safety protocols to continue cruises. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said elderly people with underlying health conditions should avoid cruising.

Meanwhile, CDC and California health officials prepared to transport more than 2,000 cruise ship passengers from Carnival’s Grand Princess to hospitals for care or military bases for quarantine after a COVID-19 outbreak on that ship. Herald data show at least 125 passengers and 19 crew from the ship have tested positive, and at least five people have died.

March 11

CLIA sprang into action on Capitol Hill to try to fend off a government-ordered industry shut-down. Lobbyists met with the Florida House delegation to discuss proposals to curb infections on their ships, including barring people over the age of 70 from boarding. More passengers boarded ships. Others hopped off to visit ports around the world.

Around 550,000 passengers were on cruises on March 11, according to CLIA, the same day the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 12

Princess Cruises, owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp., was the first to stop cruising. The line canceled all new cruises for the next 60 days after government-led quarantines on two of its ships.

March 13

The rest of the North American cruise fleet followed on March 13, announcing a 30-day pause.

South Florida governments proclaimed their support. Miami-Dade County waived its docking fees, allowing cruise companies to bring their ships to PortMiami at a discount, and offered to turn a warehouse into a triage center to isolate infected passengers.

The industry is an important economic player in South Florida; along with bringing millions of tourists, cruise lines paid nearly $77 million and $60 million in passenger fees to PortMiami and Port Everglades, respectively, in fiscal year 2018.

President Donald Trump tweeted, “It is a great and important industry – it will be kept that way!”

By March 17, the CDC elevated its travel warning to require cruise passengers to self-isolate for 14 days after disembarking.

Despite his persistent public plugs for a cruise industry bailout, Trump signed into law on March 27 a federal coronavirus stimulus bill that excludes cruise companies. The companies claim exemption from U.S. income taxes because they are incorporated in foreign countries and register almost all of their ships abroad, too.

Two days later, Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to turn away a ship full of sick people seeking refuge in a Florida port.

Some ships that were able to get back to port quickly after March 13 offloaded thousands of cruise passengers without any screening from companies or governments.

Passengers on the Ruby Princess cruise ship that docked in Sydney, Australia, on March 19 walked right off the ship and scattered across the world—despite many showing symptoms of COVID-19. At least 647 people, including 202 crew members, have tested positive, and at least 22 people have died. The ship is the largest source of COVID-19 cases in Australia, and is at the center of a criminal investigation in that country.

Passengers on the MSC Meraviglia disembarked in Miami on March 15 without any screening after a passenger on the previous voyage tested positive. At least two passengers who got off the ship that day contracted COVID-19.

Other ships, like Carnival’s Zaandam and Coral Princess, were forced to sail for more than a week to reach Florida’s shores in early April after every country in the Western hemisphere with a cruise port turned them away.

At least five passengers from the Zaandam tested positive for COVID-19. All of them died, as did one of the crew members who tested positive.

On March 20, the lead physician on the Coral Princess wrote passengers a letter.

“Rest assured that, relatively speaking, Coral Princess is probably one of the safest places in the world to be at this time,” the doctor wrote.

Since then, at least eight passengers and five crew tested positive for COVID-19, and at least two passengers have died from the disease. The ship docked in Miami.

After offloading passengers, ships became incubators for crew infections. Approximately 120 cruise ships with more than 80,000 crew on board are currently sailing in U.S. waters; at least 20 have known or suspected COVID-19 infections, according to the CDC.

During the last passenger cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, the company alerted the CDC of a possible COVID-19 infection on board. On March 26, the company sent an email to passengers from the voyage to warn them that someone on their cruise had tested positive.

The company waited until March 28 — nearly two weeks after first learning of a possible infection — to warn the crew still on board of their exposure and isolate them. At least 14 crew members have tested positive.

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line encouraged crew on its Norwegian Encore ship, docked at PortMiami, to take advantage of activities normally off limits to workers like passenger buffets and pools and gyms, even as more people fell ill. Meanwhile on land, city governments and public health officials warned the public to stay in their homes.

One crew member who was able to leave the Encore tested positive for COVID-19 the next day.

Some crew members will never make it home.

As of publication, at least eleven crew members have died from COVID-19 — four of them in South Florida hospitals.

Citing continued COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations among crew who remain on cruise ships, on April 9 the CDC extended the halt on cruise operations in U.S. waters until late July, or until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and required the industry to implement a plan to immediately mitigate outbreaks on ships.

The coronavirus outbreak has been a nightmare for everyone, but especially those passengers that were stuck on board a ship with the deadly virus. And sadly, we know now, this is a tragic situation that very well could have been avoided. Cruise lines knew about the dangers of COVID-19, and the very real risks of passenger exposure, but they made the choice to continue cruising. The passengers on board continued with life as normal while the rest of the world was being told to stay safe at home.

As more investigations confirm just how much cruise line operators knew before setting sail, it will be likely that many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits will arise. Severe injuries or wrongful death aboard a cruise ship are nothing any passenger prepares to experience, but the reality is that these events can happen. When a cruise line’s careless or negligent actions are to blame, our Florida Cruise Ship Injury and Maritime Law Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you file your own lawsuit or join a current lawsuit to secure financial compensation.

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covid-19-4982910_640-150x150Late Saturday there was a call for body bags and by Monday, the police received an anonymous tip about a body being stored in a shed outside one of the state’s largest nursing homes.

Once police arrived, the corpse had been removed from the shed, but they discovered 17 bodies piled inside the nursing home in a small morgue, intended to hold no more than four people.

The 17 were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care facility, Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II, including two nurses, officials said. Of those who died, 26 people had tested positive for the virus.

For all the others, the cause of death is unknown.

Of the patients who remain at the homes, housed in two buildings, 76 have tested positive for the virus; 41 staff members, including an administrator, are sick with COVID-19, according to county health records shared Wednesday with a federal official.

This nursing home is certainly not alone. Coronavirus has killed thousands of residents at facilities struggling with staff shortages, increasingly sick patients and a lack of personal protective gear.

Andover Subacute has beds for 700 patients and records show it is the state’s largest licensed facility.  

Even before the pandemic, the nursing home had struggled. Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II recently got a one-star rating of “much below average” from Medicare for staffing levels, inspections and patient care.

Reports indicate that the nursing home is overwhelmed by the death toll and has requested help from the governor’s office to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

The state Department of Health sent two shipments containing 3,200 surgical masks, 1,400 N95 masks and 10,000 gloves to the nursing homes, according to a spokeswoman. 

The nursing home has told local health officials that they are housing sick patients on separate wings or floors, Danielson said. And local residents have been gathering supplies to donate to the nursing home.

Most of the state’s nursing homes have reported at least one case of the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday had infected 6,815 patients of long-term care facilities in New Jersey. At least 45 of the 351 coronavirus-related deaths announced on Wednesday were residents of long-term care facilities.

Thirteen of the bodies discovered on Monday at the Andover facility were moved to a refrigerated truck outside a hospital in nearby Newton. A funeral home had made arrangements to pick up the other four.

The number of deaths in nursing homes from coronavirus is rising by the day. Due to the fact that older adults and those with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable to the virus, nursing homes and elderly assisted living facilities must follow infection control protocols as well as guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a nursing home or assisted living facility breaches this duty during a pandemic, a nursing home neglect lawsuit could result. 

A pandemic is no reason to let safety and security measures slide, especially among the elderly and those with compromised immune systems who are among the most at-risk populations for contracting the deadly coronavirus. As such, nursing homes across the United States have failed to take swift actions to protect their employees and residents during the COVID-19 outbreak and can be held liable for their negligence.

Due to nursing homes failing to contain certain areas, many sick and elderly residents quickly contracted coronavirus and spread the disease to others in their nursing homes. In the majority of these cases, the spread of the disease could have been prevented with common-sense guidelines, like social distancing, frequent hand washing, and the usage of face masks.

Sadly, many nursing home residents came in contact with COVID-19. Our Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton know this would not have happened if nursing homes had followed pandemic guidelines. 

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veteran-2698167_640-150x150A military veteran who contracted coronavirus in mid-March at a Florida VA nursing home in Pembroke Pines has died, state officials confirmed Saturday.

The deceased veteran, who was not identified, was one of two men living at the nursing home for veterans in Pembroke Pines who were hospitalized last month after they tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. They were transferred to a local hospital.

The two residents at the Alexander Nininger State Veterans Nursing Home were tested after they showed signs of a low-grade fever, according to officials. They have been the only veterans at the state’s seven veteran nursing homes and domiciliary facilities who have contracted the disease since the coronavirus outbreak in Florida last month.

With more coronavirus test results rolling in, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among veterans at the Miami VA hospital has more than doubled to 36 as of Saturday, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs records. One of those veterans, a man in his 90s, died last week, according to the Miami VA officials.

About half of those patients are being treated at the downtown Miami VA hospital and the other half are quarantined at home, records show.

The Miami VA hospital now surpasses the Orlando VA facility, with 34 positive COVID-19 patients, for the most coronavirus infections in Florida.

Statewide, 104 veterans have tested positive for the viral disease at federal VA hospitals as of Saturday, up more than 30 percent this past week.

That figure, however, represents less than 1 percent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, according to Florida Department of Health records. As of Tuesday, there have been 13,629 positive test results and 254 deaths in Florida due to the highly contagious respiratory disease.

The 372-bed Miami VA hospital, which serves 58,000 veterans in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, has also had four staff members test positive for the viral infection, and the employees are all in isolation, mitigating further risk of transmission to other patients and staff, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The Miami VA hospital was among dozens of veterans’ facilities nationwide recently cited by a federal inspector general for failing to maintain adequate equipment and supplies, including critical N95 masks for healthcare workers. The reality is, hospitals in and outside the VA system are reporting shortages of the N95 masks as well as traditional surgical masks.

On Monday, Miami VA officials started requiring employees to use and reuse surgical masks for one week, unless they are treating patients with COVID-19 or their masks become soiled. In those instances, they can ask supervisors for a replacement.

“These masks are expected to be used for a week at a time, longer if possible,” Miami VA Healthcare System Director Kalautie JangDhari told staff in an email Sunday that was updated with the same message Wednesday. “Masks may be removed while eating or drinking, but must be immediately put back on.”

Despite the new policy, Miami VA healthcare workers say surgical masks are not as thick or effective as the N95 masks that were found to be in short supply at the hospital by federal inspectors during a visit last month. 

Sadly, nursing homes are habitually understaffed. With the novel coronavirus pandemic, staff shortages are even worse. However, nursing homes and assisted living facilities are known to keep resident to staff ratios high, and staff numbers low, in an effort to boost profits. These facilities are notorious for placing profits over people, which can ultimately lead to serious injuries and death.

The staff at nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not always properly trained on infection control measures, which means they are often unaware of the policies and procedures to prevent infection. It has been documented that Florida nursing homes have struggled with infection control. There have been repeated instances of workers failing to wash their hands as they move between patients.

The CDC has released new regulations for how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing home and assisted living facilities, which include:

  • Implementing symptom screening policies
  • Restricting visitors and nonessential personnel
  • Active screening of health care personnel, including documenting respiratory symptoms and temperature
  • Training staff on infection control
  • Restricting resident movement and group activities

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ball-2585603_640-150x150A nursing home in Baker County that saw a sudden spike of 10 coronavirus cases said the illness was bought into the facility from someone who was recently moved to the facility.

The Macclenny Nursing and Rehab Center suddenly found that 10 patients in the facility had been infected with COVID-19 as of Thursday. Only one other case of the infection had been reported in the county prior to the outbreak in the nursing home, the Florida Department Health data showed on the coronavirus dashboard.

Susan Kaar, vice president of compliance and quality management for the nursing home’s owning company Southern Healthcare Management LLC, said the facility’s first confirmed case was a resident who was admitted to the center after being at a local hospital. While monitoring residents, the center noticed others displaying symptoms associated with COVID-19 and tested them. The virus spread rather quickly. All victims of coronavirus were transferred to a local hospital. 

As a proactive and preventative measure, all patients and staff were tested for the virus. This is when the additional cases were found. 

It is unclear how many of the 10 victims were elderly patients and how many were staff. 

The facility says it is collaborating with the local Department of Health. .

Baker County Commission Chair James Bennett Friday said county first responders have handled the situation and the jurisdiction is taking the outbreak in stride.

As of Monday, the DOH coronavirus dashboard said Baker County had 12 victims of the illness with no deaths. The dashboard indicates the age range of the 12 victims is 24 to 97. 

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Florida is at 12,350, as of Monday. The number of residents that have tested positive for coronavirus are 11,961. The number of hospital admissions are 1,555 and the number of deaths are 221. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, nursing homes are experiencing a shortage of caregivers. Regulators are now allowing “personal care attendants” to perform more hands-on functions normally handled by certified nursing assistants, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration. In addition, the state of Florida is temporarily waiving a live-scan fingerprinting requirement for new employees who work with residents because fingerprinting vendors are shut down, according to an emergency order. Instead of fingerprinting, nursing homes are required to conduct background checks through several sources, according to the order. The waiver is in effect for 30 days and is due to expire April 27 unless extended.

Nursing Homes Still Have a Duty of  Care to Residents 

Florida nursing home and assisted living facilities owe their residents a duty of reasonable care to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Elderly nursing home residents and residents with underlying health issues are at an increased risk of dying from coronavirus. Because of this, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must take extra precautions to prevent coronavirus from spreading throughout their facilities. 

When nursing homes and assisted living facilities do not take the necessary steps to protect their residents from coronavirus, this could translate to negligence. Any residents who suffer harm or die from being infected with coronavirus have a legal right to bring a lawsuit against a negligent nursing home or assisted living facility.

Nursing Homes Must Take Extra Precautions

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), advises healthcare employees to follow very strict procedures for preventing the spread of viruses, including the following:

  • Staff should wear personal protective equipment
  • Staff should restrict visitors from coming into contact with infected patients
  • Staff should practice proper hand hygiene
  • Staff should prevent potentially infected or infected staff members from coming into contact with nursing home patients

Filing a Nursing Home Negligence Lawsuit After Contracting Coronavirus

Nursing homes that fail to take the necessary steps to prevent coronavirus from spreading can be held legally responsible for any suffering and death caused by the virus. Let’s say an infected nursing home staff member contracted the virus and exposed a resident to it after failing to wear protective gear around the resident. The resident may very well have a valid claim for a negligence lawsuit.

Contact Our Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Attorneys at Whittel & Melton 

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care-4083343_640-150x150A Washington state nursing home that had at least 37 Covid-19 deaths faces a fine of more than $611,000, according to federal inspectors. 

The facility could also lose Medicare and Medicaid funding if it does not correct a plethora of deficiencies that led to the country’s first major outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

In a letter Wednesday to Life Care Center of Kirkland, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote that the nursing home failed to report an outbreak of respiratory illness to local authorities for two weeks as required by law, gave inadequate care to its residents during the outbreak and failed to provide 24-hour emergency doctor services.

The inspectors said that if the nursing home northeast of Seattle “does not correct all deficiencies and return to full compliance by September 16, 2020, then CMS will terminate your facility from participating in the Medicare/Medicaid program.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Life Care had not responded to a request for comment on the inspection findings and the penalties. The company has a right to appeal.

Inspectors levied a per-day civil penalty of $13,585 for the alleged deficiencies, dating to Feb. 12, around the time that the outbreak is thought to have taken hold, and continuing through March 27. They said the fine could be raised, or lowered, depending on the facility’s compliance with its correction plan.

In addition to losing its federal payments under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the facility also could lose its Nurse Aide Training and Competency Evaluation Program and forfeit federal payment for the patients it admitted from March 21 to March 27.

Officials said that 129 residents, staff and visitors were infected with the coronavirus, which causes mild-to-moderate symptoms in most people but can prove fatal to the sick and elderly. As of March 23, 37 people associated with Life Care had died. 

In figures updated April 1, the county said that 2,496 people had tested positive for covid-19 in total and that 164 people had died due to covid-19 illness.

In a summary of its findings issued last month, CMS said inspectors had found that Life Care failed to swiftly notify regional authorities that it had a surge in respiratory infections, and continued to admit new patients and hold events such as a Mardi Gras party for dozens of residents and guests.

King County said it received notification of an increase in respiratory illnesses at the nursing home late on Feb. 27. Life Care has said it also left a voice message with county officials the day before. State law and county regulations required Life Care to report any suspected flu outbreak within 24 hours.

The Seattle region was the site of the first confirmed coronavirus case in the United States. Authorities said on January 21 that a 35-year-old man in Snohomish County, which neighbors King County, had tested positive after traveling from the Wuhan region of China, where the virus is thought to have originated. The man has since recovered.

Managers at the facility held quality-assurance meetings on Jan. 27 and Feb. 19, after the virus had already been detected in a neighboring county.

The home’s director, who joined the facility in January, told CMS inspectors: “Normally if there are concerns in infection control it would have been discussed in the QAPI meeting.”

CMS said infection concerns did not come up at either meeting, including the one in February, which was held days after Life Care said it posted signs warning visitors about the respiratory outbreak that staff thought was the flu.

“Further review of the 02/19/2020 monthly QAPI meeting minutes under the nursing section revealed: no reports of infection concerns at the facility,” the CMS report said.

The nursing home’s medical director, who was not identified, did not attend either of those meetings, the report states. Life Care’s “Infection Preventionist” nurse attended the January meeting, but did not attend the Feb. 19 meeting.

The executive director and two unidentified administrative staff members said “it was very chaotic” inside Life Care, as patients and dozens of staff members fell ill in February and March. Patient records were incomplete. Staff members were sick and unable to tend to the residents, they told inspectors.

“We were triaging residents as the residents were crashing, so there wasn’t going to be a lot of documentation,” one nursing home official, who was not identified in the report, told CMS inspectors.

CMS said the facility “did not have effective systems in place” to prevent the infection or respond to it. Life Care officials did not notify health-care authorities of the outbreak until Feb. 26 and did not have a 24-hour emergency physician or adequate staff to respond to the outbreak.

The facility lacked a “clear medical plan of action,” inspectors said, leading to a “systemic failure.”

Nearly a month after the outbreak, on March 7, inspectors said two certified nursing assistants, a man who had worked at Life Care for 15 years and a woman who had been there for four years, said they had not been trained to properly sanitize items with bleach wipes.

Also that day, inspectors spotted a laundry staff member who delivered clothing to residents in multiple rooms without changing her gown, gloves and other protective gear despite warning signs that patients might have been contagious.

CMS Guidance for Limiting the Transmission of COVID-19 for Nursing Homes 

CMS has released a guidance labeled as QSO-20-14-NH to respond to the threat posed by COVID-19.

For ALL facilities nationwide: Facilities should restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation. In those cases, visitors will be limited to a specific room only. Facilities are expected to notify potential visitors to defer visitation until further notice (through signage, calls, letters, etc.). 

Note: If a state implements actions that exceed CMS requirements, such as a ban on all visitation through a governor’s executive order, a facility would not be out of compliance with CMS’ requirements. In this case, surveyors would still enter the facility, but not cite for noncompliance with visitation requirements. 

For individuals that enter in compassionate situations (e.g., end-of-life care), facilities should require visitors to perform hand hygiene and use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as facemasks. Decisions about visitation during an end of life situation should be made on a case by case basis, which should include careful screening of the visitor (including clergy, bereavement counselors, etc.) for fever or respiratory symptoms. Those with symptoms of a respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat) should not be permitted to enter the facility at any time (even in end-of-life situations). Those visitors that are permitted, must wear a facemask while in the building and restrict their visit to the resident’s room or other location designated by the facility. They should also be reminded to frequently perform hand hygiene.

Nursing Homes Are Still Obligated to Meet Residents Needs During a Global Pandemic

The coronavirus is a very serious condition that can be fatal to elderly residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The CMS is working hard to provide the guidance nursing homes need to protect their residents. This is no time for nursing homes to place profits over people. Instead, nursing homes need to step up and protect the elderly in their care and place their safety as top priority.

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