This article has been updated to include a statement from the Victoria Post-Acute Center.
Now that nursing homes throughout the country are required to report COVID-19 infections and deaths, the impact that the novel coronavirus has on the nation’s elderly is beginning to unfold.
Nowhere has that been seen more in San Diego County than Victoria Post Acute Care in El Cajon. As first reported by NBC 7 Investigates, the facility has the highest number of deaths in San Diego County. State data shows 15 people have died from COVID-19 and 42 residents and staffers have tested positive for the disease. The facility, as previously reported, was cited by the state in 2018 on two occasions for failing to have adequate disease control plans in place.
And while the reporting requirements help us understand the actual scope of the pandemic on the elderly, many fear the numbers are far greater.
“We could talk forever and it would only seem like a fraction of the time,” said Michelle Moffett in between emotional breaks at the thought of her longtime friend, Lewis Hawley.
Hawley died at the age of 80 while a resident at Victoria Post Acute Care in April from a respiratory illness. And while Moffett said Hawley was not tested for COVID-19, she is sure the disease was the cause of his death. Moffett suggests that had Hawley been tested, then he would have likely been transferred to a hospital where he would have received much needed care.
"I am distraught, frustrated, in shock, and so angry," Moffett told NBC 7 Investigates. She said she called the nursing home repeatedly as Hawley’s condition worsened and asked that he get tested for the coronavirus, but no one from the facility called her back.
"I'm sorry,” said Moffett. “I never would have imagined, I mean he was mistreated, I can't, I wanted so bad to rescue him, and I'm sorry for putting him there."
"Who knows how many people have passed and they've really had it," she added.
The facility’s executive director did not respond to numerous attempts for comment on the deaths and infections of residents. Moffett said she is not surprised.
"I never got the answers that I needed," said Moffett.
But the East County nursing home is not the only assisted living facility with a high number of deaths and infections.
Windsor Gardens Convalescent Center in National City has reported that 12 residents have died from the disease and 33 people have tested positive.
Update – May 28: A week after NBC 7 reported this story, the Executive Director of the Victoria Post-Acute Center Colton Levar sent NBC 7 a statement regarding the conditions inside the nursing home. In part, Colton Levar said no resident or employee has tested positive for COVID-19 in the last three weeks. “We are laser-focused on infection control, and are committed to taking all appropriate actions within our control to protect our residents from the adverse effects of the virus,” the statement reads. To read the full statement, click here.