The death toll at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center climbed to 39 on Thursday, drawing ever closer to the number of COVID-19 fatalities at a Seattle-area nursing home at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
“This is absolutely devastating — there’s no other word for it,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in reaction to the fatalities at the skilled nursing facility in western Henrico County.
“Our hearts go out to all Canterbury residents, staff, the victims, and their loved ones,” Northam said. “Our state and local health teams are working around the clock, and we will continue to do everything possible to keep Virginians in this facility safe.”
As of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, 43 residents of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., had died of the disease caused by the coronavirus in the first deadly outbreak that began in late February.
Canterbury is nearing that mark after 18 days.
The first death occurred on March 22 and the latest four happened in the past day, the company announced on Thursday afternoon. Canterbury Medical Director Dr. James Wright had confirmed 35 deaths on Wednesday.
Wright said Thursday that all four died at the center, three of them in the palliative care unit established for those who chose, with their families, not to go to a hospital for treatment that they would be unlikely to survive.
The fourth, a 72-year-old woman, “had rapid onset of symptoms and died within a few hours,” he said. “That one was unexpected.”
The number of residents infected with COVID-19 at the center fell correspondingly from 88 to 84 on Thursday.
Canterbury said 35 residents — of 164 when the outbreak began in mid-March — have tested negative for the virus and remain in an isolated wing of the facility with separate staff attending them. Wright said Thursday that 16 residents are recuperating from the infection by the virus, which attacks the lower respiratory system.
The center also said the number of infected health care workers remains at 25, as it has for more than a week.
Wright said the death rate at Canterbury is 29%, compared with 34% at Life Care Center in Washington, which had fewer residents at the time of the outbreak there.
“We will have more deaths,” he said.
Henrico now has 42 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. In addition to Canterbury, a resident of the Masonic Home of Virginia in eastern Henrico died of the virus last week.
Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Henrico and Richmond Health Districts, said on Thursday that a woman in her 50s had died of the disease in the past day. “She had a lot of underlying health conditions,” he said.
Earlier this week, Avula reported that a man in his 90s had succumbed to the disease, the first COVID-19 facility in Henrico outside of nursing facilities.
A second resident of an assisted living facility in Chesterfield County also has died after being confirmed with COVID-19, as the virus has spread to a dozen residents there.
Spring Arbor of Salisbury, a senior living community in Midlothian, confirmed the death late Wednesday but said, “it hasn’t been determined if COVID-19 was the direct cause.”
Richard Williams, senior vice president of the facility, confirmed on Thursday that both residents who died were among 12 who had been confirmed with the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“These residents are currently being treated and are expected to recover,” Williams said in a statement issued Wednesday night. “It is always hard to lose a member of our Spring Arbor family and we continue to do everything possible to ensure the safety, security and well being of our residents.”
Dr. Alexander Samuel, director of the Chesterfield Health District, confirmed on Thursday that two residents with underlying health conditions had tested positive for the virus and died.
“One passed away on April 2nd. The other passed away on April 7th,” Samuel said in a statement. “We can only confirm 10 positive residents. Lab results are pending on two more residents.””
“The health department has been in regular contact with the facility, which appears to be following the infection control guidance it has been given,” the health director said. “Since it is an Assisted Living Facility where most of the residents live in independent apartments, infection control protocols can be implemented and enforced more effectively.
“There have been no symptomatic residents or staff reported over the past three days,” Samuel said. “What we’re seeing now are the effects of exposures that occurred over the past two weeks or more.
“The only thing we can do now is implement strident infection control practices and hold to them,” he added. “We’ll be able to determine whether these efforts have worked over the next seven days to two weeks.”
Editor’s Note: This story is updated to reflect the total number of deaths at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash.