Villages of Lapeer workers with COVID-19 say facility refused to provide PPE

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LAPEER COUNTY (WJRT) (4/8/2020) - Employees at a Lapeer nursing home say the facility failed to protect them, their residents and their families.

The Lapeer County Health Department is working with the Villages of Lapeer nursing home after two residents died of coronavirus and more contracted the illness.

The Lapeer County Health Department is reporting two people who lived at the Villages of Lapeer have died from the coronavirus in the last few days.

Two workers are off the job in quarantine after both tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus. They say no precautions were taken to prevent them from getting sick.

The Villages of Lapeer is located at 239 S. Main St. Employees say the facility has become a hot spot for the virus.

"It's like they failed us," said certified nursing assistant Shanika Johnson, of Flint. "But not only that, they failed all of our residents and all of our resident's families, you know."

She tested positive for COVID-19 on April 1. She believes she caught the virus at work. About a week before Johnson felt sick, she said several of the nursing home's residents had high fevers and were not acting like themselves.

"And when it got reported to the management, they seemed like they overlooked it, like they didn't follow up on those concerns with the different residents," Johnson said.

She said the staff has not been able to wear any personal protection equipment during the coronavirus pandemic. But, she claims the facility had the equipment and even posted on Facebook about receiving a donation of masks.

But Johnson said, the masks were locked up in a manager's office and people who brought their own gear from home were told to leave.

"They just don't seem like they're taking it seriously or really that they care, you know," she said.

So far, the Lapeer County Health Department reports two residents of the facility have died. Another certified nursing assistant at Villages of Lapeer, Tasha Harden, also tested positive and believes the facility is lying to the county.

Harden believes six other workers have tested positive for COVID-19 besides her and Johnson. She believes 16 of the 70 residents at Villages of Lapeer also tested positive.

"It's not fair. It's not fair to us, it's not fair to residents. And, go tell any family member right now," Harden said. "If you have family that's at the Villages of Lapeer, living there, when this is over or if you can right now, get your family out of there because they do not care."

She is concerned about passing coronavirus on to her daughter.

"You know, Monday morning my daughter woke up with some chest pains and a sore throat; and, that's when I decided to go to the emergency room," Harden said. "Because my daughter is diabetic and also has asthma, she can't afford to get this. So currently, I'm worried that she had it because she's sick now."

She does not want to return to her job after her coronavirus quarantine is over.

"I love what I do. I'm going to continue doing what I do," Harden said. "But, I'm gonna do it at a facility who actually cares about their employees and about their residents, and not a facility who dropped the ball because that's what they did."

The Villages of Lapeer hung up when ABC12 called to ask for comment. The facility's management later released a statement in response to concerns raised by Harden and Johnson.

Owner Tim Davis said: "In such an unprecedented, and challenging, time, we want to provide the community with assurance that we are following the CDC guidelines including providing Personal Protective Equipment to employees and doing everything we can to navigate this pandemic. Every person to enter the building (staff, residents, EMS) is screened, every time they enter, which entails an on-paper COVID screen, on the spot temperature monitoring, and screening for symptoms. We have prepared a COVID-19 unit where residents can be separated from the rest of the population. All residents have been quarantined, and our life enrichment team has tackled the daunting task of keeping spirits high while innovating many in-room activities.
We appreciate the support we have been given by the health department and the community partners."

The Lapeer County Health Department learned of a Villages of Lapeer staff member testing positive for coronavirus cases last week and began working with the facility on "testing, isolation, overall instruction and their need for PPE," said County Health Director Kathy Haskins.

County health officials also forwarded other concerns about the facility to state regulators at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

LARA spokesman David Harns confirmed that the department had staff members at Villages of Lapeer on Wednesday, but could not comment on specifics of "an ongoing investigation.”

State regulators could be seen talking with employees outside the nursing home on Wednesday.