The sirens seemed to roar endlessly outside the Kirkland Life Care Center in Washington.
That night, she took the patient to the hospital, hoping that she would be treated and eventually released. They never came back.
That day, she learned that the nursing home had only invaded “all symptoms” of the virus four days ago.
She also had to make some puzzling calls that day.
At three in the morning, she could not shake. She remembered the conversation with the woman on the other end of the phone.
Ernest said: “I realized it was early in the morning, and it’s hard to say that this is very sorry for your mother’s passing.”
Two people who have never met shared heartbreaking moments. Ernest said that ten months later, they still talk sometimes.
Earnest is a registered nurse who volunteered to serve as the director of nursing from another life care center in the state to help Kirkland Nursing Home.
They need all the help they can get. In March, nearly 70% of employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
She had no idea that in a quiet residential area of Kirkland, the humble buildings on the tree-lined streets would become the epicenter of the first coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
She told CNN in March: “It’s like chasing ghosts.” “You are on a battlefield with limited combat readiness. Rescuers are slow to get there and the casualties are heavy. And you can’t see the enemy.”
In the ten months since the initial outbreak, she and other frontline medical workers here have finally obtained the best weapon against the virus: a vaccine.
Alice Cortez, the nursing manager of Kirkland Life Care Center, was the first person to be vaccinated here.
She said: “For everyone, especially for my team, today is an exciting day.”
“What I feel now is a new life, a new starting point, but a better life.”
Coronavirus is still a threat to nursing homes
But everyone here knows that this virus is still raging and still poses a threat to the most vulnerable people: the people they are accused of.
As of December 13, the Medicare and Medicaid Services Center, which oversees nursing homes, stated that 441,000 nursing home patients across the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 86,775 nursing home residents have died of Covid-19. 1,258 staff members also lost their lives.
Nancy Butner, vice president of the Northwest Life Care Center, said: “There is no day, I did not receive a call or receive news from new active patients or staff.” Butner said some of her employees Has been hospitalized recently. Many more patients died in other facilities.
Batner said: “It’s ruthless.”
Initially, some families and the public blamed the nurses, doctors, and staff of the Kirkland Life Care Center for the epidemic, and did not better control the epidemic.
The phone never stops ringing. Because of other unwanted telephones, the home is not accessible-sometimes doctors cannot.
“It’s hard to hear the phone when you enter the patient’s room. And you think it’s a doctor, and then you get there. Some people say that they have a cure for Covid, and they gave you crazier recipes than them,” Ernst said.
Usually, this is the most annoying call: death threats are enough to demand safety. One night after serious treatment of the patient, she dared not drive.
“My husband said,’Make sure you have a gun,'” she said, now able to laugh about it. But he is serious and the threat is serious.
Then there are scenes of destroyed families every day.
Some people have lost their parents in the facility, while the families of others are still infected with Covid-19. They sat on chairs outside the windows of family members’ rooms, had lunch with them, and had sullen conversations through glasses.
Internally, the staff is dealing with a virus that no one knows.
Before telling the public to wear a mask, before the elbow bulge becomes a new handshake, all symptoms are not known. Not long ago, thousands of people began to fall ill and die in New York City, and New York City quickly became the second hardest hit by the virus.
The Life Care Center appealed the ruling. In September, the state administrative judge mainly supported the Kirkland Life Care Center, not the state investigation results, which imitated the federal investigation results.
The judge said that the state agency “provided very little evidence that the facility actually did not meet any expected standards of care or did not follow public health guidelines.”
The federal appeal has not yet been decided.
Changes made since the outbreak in March
Initially, there were not enough coronavirus tests, and it took several days to get results. Now they conducted a quick test that took several minutes.
In some rooms, there are three patients. Now, if the distance between them is appropriate, reduce it to one or two.
Before contracting the virus, the agency accepted as many as 124 patients. Now they set its upper limit to 97.
At that time, people have been worried about the lack of personal protective equipment. Now, a nearby facility has a large room filled with masks, gloves and other equipment.
However, 10 months after the initial virus outbreak, the chairs of the family members remained outside the windows of the room. The room number is written on the window.
That has become a semi-permanent fixture, because visitors are still not allowed to enter the interior.
No family members hold hands or hug and kiss. It’s too dangerous, the virus is too easy to spread. The staff now knows this.
At first, Earnest was a registered nurse. She informed doctors and members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the information she had seen on patients. Now, they are constantly getting updates and new security agreements from government agencies.
Covid-19 affects employees inside and outside nursing homes
Butner said that what people don’t usually think about is that workers must fight the virus in the workplace and at home.
Earnest lost an uncle on Covid-19 this year. Therefore, before Christmas, she must “talk” with her mother to understand how she wants to die.
“If she understands, what does she want? Does she want to sit on a ventilator or…let go?”
This was the hardest conversation she had with her family. But she said she could not avoid it. No one should.
It is terrible when they are taken away and cut off from the world, and you don’t understand their wishes. She said, sometimes you won’t say goodbye.
Seriously, she hopes that this vaccine will make these conversations less urgent. But not everyone in the nursing facility wants it.
She said: “Before receiving vaccine education, we conducted a survey of the staff at the facility. Twenty percent said no, never. They will not get vaccinated.”
She said that currently, the American Life Care Center has not enforced it. the reason is simple.
She said: “We will not lose 20% of our employees at all.” “Another effect of this virus is the extreme shortage of all healthcare personnel.”
She hopes that the number of educated people will decrease.
For the physician assistant Christy Carmichael, her decision to buy the vaccine surprised everyone. Last week, she promised a patient who survived Covid-19 that she would be able to get the vaccine.
“I said yes. Unfortunately, she passed away,” Carmichael turned into tears after being vaccinated. “I did promise her that she would get it, so it’s a pity that she didn’t see this today.”
CNN’s Leslie Perrot and Mallory Simon contributed to this report.