Nearly Half of Virginia Coronavirus Deaths Originated at a Richmond Nursing Home

This Friday, March 27, 2020 photo shows the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Richmond, Va. The Center is dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Officials said Thursday that a few residents have died and dozens are showing symptoms. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Meghan McCarthy
April 2, 2020

A Virginia long-term care facility with one of the nation’s worst known coronavirus outbreaks announced Thursday that testing conducted on all residents had more than doubled the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 to nearly 100 as the number of fatalities increased to 16.

The Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in suburban Richmond tested all its residents and staff earlier this week after the virus began sweeping through the facility in mid-March, a time when limited testing supplies and strict policies on who could be tested meant such a response was not possible.

Ninety-two in-house or hospitalized residents tested positive, the statement said, up from a total earlier in the week of 41. Only 35 tested negative, and 15 tests were outstanding, meaning approximately two-thirds of the facility became infected with the virus.

Of the residents who tested positive, 53, or about 58%, were “asymptomatic carriers showing no sign of being ill,” the statement said.

The facility’s administrator, Jeremiah Davis, said in a statement that the findings were consistent with other mass testing studies.

“It is also believed that if mass testing were done at other facilities and in communities where there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19, large numbers of asymptomatic and mild cases of the virus would be found as well,” he said.

Among the 16 deaths were five over the last 24-hour period, the facility said in a statement.

County officials were scheduled to hold a press conference later Thursday to discuss the outbreak.

Canterbury has faced both a staffing and supply shortage amid the crisis, though officials have said both have improved in recent days. As of Wednesday afternoon, 25 workers had tested positive, according to Davis. The staff-wide test results were not yet available.

Canterbury’s medical director, Dr. Jim Wright, said in an interview earlier this week that at one point in the outbreak, staff were triaging patients in a way he never expected to see in the United States.

Canterbury has said it ended visitations before the first confirmed COVID-19 case and implemented extra sanitizing measures. All COVID-19 patients were being treated in an isolated unit with dedicated staff.

Health officials have announced “cluster investigations” in at least five other long-term care facilities in the Richmond and Henrico County area alone, though none as severe as Canterbury. The state health department has not provided information about how many outbreaks there may be statewide in nursing or other long-term care facilities, and it is not clear if an effort to compile that information is underway.

The federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, but an AP tally from media reports and state health departments indicate at least 450 deaths and nearly 2,300 infections have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.

Statewide, at least 41 people in Virginia have died from COVID-19, according to the latest statistics from the Department of Health, although it was not immediately clear whether all the Canterbury deaths had been accounted for in that total.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or lead to death.

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