Families of residents at Washington nursing home hit by coronavirus want answers

David Ryder/Getty Images(SEATTLE) — In Washington state, where nine people have died of novel coronavirus over the past week, including residents at a nursing home, patients’ families are anxious and asking for answers.

Vanessa Phelps visited her mother, a resident at the Life Care nursing home a week ago. After the first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed at the facility Feb. 29, the nursing home told Phelps that she should get tested for the virus.

Phelps is now self-quarantined at home. Until Tuesday, she couldn’t get in touch with her mother at all. The phone lines at Life Care were busy, and many families nervously emailed each other when they couldn’t get through to the nursing home.

“All the families are really worried, not knowing if our loved ones are even alive, if they have the virus,” Phelps told ABC News via Skype.

Some of the families were trying to reach nursing home residents who have dementia, are bedridden or who have had strokes that affect their speaking ability, meaning they aren’t able to talk over the phone. Getting in touch with Life Care was their only option.

“None of us can get through, and nobody’s allowed in there, so we’re just shut out,” said Phelps, who’s also worried about her own health after she had cancer last year. Older adults and those with underlying health conditions face a greater risk of complications from COVID-19.

“It’s horrific. My mom being there all alone, it’s just heartbreaking and it’s unacceptable what they’re doing,” she added. “These are people we love and it’s unacceptable we don’t have communication.”

On Tuesday, Phelps said she finally was able to check in with her mother, who’s frail but doing about as well as she can under the circumstances.

King County’s public health department said it was working with Life Care to test anyone with symptoms, and managing and treating all ill patients as though they have COVID-19. If patients develop symptoms that need more intense care, they’ll be transported to a hospital.

“We understand how unsettling this can be at this time,” the department said in a statement. “Life Care and Public Health will do everything we can to ensure the care of your loved ones.”

The state’s Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Life Care did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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