Many lives end in nursing homes even under the best of circumstances and the highest standard of care. It is the nature of the beast when you combine large populations of elderly patients with those who are sick or recovering from serious injuries.

When you take the typical nursing home demographics, add a highly contagious virus to the mix, and add a large dose of neglect, you have a recipe for the unnecessary loss of life that has been playing out tragically at nursing homes throughout the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. Nursing homes have become COVID-19 hotspots, leaving people to die alone in isolation without the comforting presence of their loved ones.

This became clear early on when Washington State became the sight of the first documented COVID-19 outbreak in the nation. It took place at The Life Care Center of Kirkland, a King County nursing home that was later fined $611,000 for negligence that contributed to the deaths of at least 40 people.

Who’s next? Unfortunately, we do not know. A maddening lag in data collection has left federal authorities in the dark regarding how many nursing homes across the country are currently experiencing outbreaks.

Even governors who have largely received high marks for their coronavirus response, like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, have been blasted for their handling of nursing homes. Cuomo acted quickly to limit access to nursing home visitors, but the same orders also “shut out ombudsmen who serve as advocates and resources for nursing home residents”, according to a report in Politico.

There are many things about COVID-19 that are simply out of our control. When preventable negligence or abuse results in additional human suffering and loss, those responsible need to be held accountable.

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