9. The California Sunday Magazine: What Happened in Room 10?
This is one of the most interesting and tragic stories I have read about the pandemic. The Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state became the epicenter of the pandemic in March, with 46 of its 121 residents eventually succumbing to COVID-19. Room 10 of the Center was shared by two patients: Twilla, 85, and Helen, 98. Helen is still alive, however Twilla died from COVID-19. Since the breakout, Kirkland became a sort of test case for how the virus should be handled in similar facilities and exposed how “ill-prepared we were for the pandemic—and how we take care of our elderly.”
A lawsuit has since been filed against Life Care for how it handled the Kirkland breakout and “the prospect of more lawsuits to come have divided Life Care residents and their families. In part, this is because the lawsuit speaks to a fundamental question: to blame or not to blame?” Twilla’s daughter is one of the family members suing Life Care, and to some, like Helen and her family, “Debbie’s case is a greedy assault against the unluckiest nursing home in America. To others, a successful case against Life Care would be a fitting comeuppance for a facility that made terrible errors and whose errors, they argue, killed dozens of people — at least 46 people — who otherwise would not have died. And then there are those who think that, yes, blame should be assigned, but that it belongs with forces much larger than a single nursing home: with the county, with the state, with federal regulators, with the system. This is a debate about perspective: whether Life Care failed or was failed, or whether this was just the inevitable way of the virus.”
While this story centers around Life Care, it also addresses the disproportionate number of people in nursing homes who are dying from the virus, and just how little oversight there is of most facilities.