AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – City leaders addressed how they are working with state and national entities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at local nursing homes.  

As cases and even deaths rise at a local nursing home, it is all sounding the alarm on the need for help.  And help is already here as the National Guard and Augusta Fire Department are working with staff to help mitigate a growing problem.

District Health Director Stephen Goggans spoke during a press conference in the commission chambers Tuesday morning.

“There’s a team from public health that’s making contact with every skilled nursing facility in the district,” he said.

Fire Chief Christopher James added his crew is also working with Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center after conducting a check over the weekend. “We also requested the National Guard support local nursing homes with manpower and cleaning.”

Mayor Hardie Davis said conversations are ongoing with both the local health department and the Department of Community Health, which oversees nursing homes. He said they,
“Identified not only a strategy, but an expectation for all of our facilities to employ the same practices that you see in the hospitals, to gown up, to wear face masks.  All of these guidelines are coming from the CDC.” 

A multifaceted approach from city leaders came down to tackle what’s becoming a local COVID-19 hotspot, nursing homes.  In concert with the National Guard, the Fire Chief said they are ramping up patient safety amid a rising number of positive cases and deaths at Windermere.  He said the center and others are compliant.  

But NewsChannel 6 spoke with the daughter-in-law of Barbara Roye.  The 82-year-old is one of the casualties at Windermere, succumbing to the disease on Easter Sunday.

Barbara Roye died from COVID-19 while a resident of Windermere.

“And even on the phone, when she called from the hospital, we could tell that she was in respiratory distress,” she said.  “She told us, I don’t want to die.  Those words are still ringing in our minds.”

Roye’s relative, who wanted to protect her identity, said the senior was a happy soul who loved family and was compassionate, never judging anyone.  She went to Windermere for rehab back in November and decided to stay because it was close to her dialysis.  In late March, she attended a family function and was well, until staff at Windermere called weeks later about respiratory distress.

“We feel like if this was detected, that maybe steps could have been taken to where she would still be with us,” she said.

Attorney Austin Jackson said after looking at other facilities Windermere parent company Sava runs, some families may have a case.

“There’s potentially a nation-wide pattern of, I don’t want to necessarily say negligence at this point, but there could be a pattern of negligence in how they handle this outbreak at their facilities,” Jackson told NewsChannel 6.

He added that he wants to know what Windermere did to stop the spread and try to find out how it got there in the first place.

Attorney Jackson explained, “What we would investigate namely is did they admit a patient that may have had coronavirus?  Did they wait for coronavirus tests to come back before they admitted patients or did they knowingly admit somebody that may have coronavirus?  That would be very negligent.”

But Windermere’s spokesperson told NewsChannel 6 that they did not admit any new residents after the CDC put restrictive measures in place March 3.

Also, the Center’s spokesperson, Annaliese Impink released the following:

“We know that this is an unsettling and scary time for our residents and their family members. We understand and greatly appreciate family members’ concern for their loved ones and are doing all we can to keep our residents safe and protected. We are in the process of contacting the resident representative of every resident in our Center to keep them informed of their loved one’s condition as it evolves. We will continue to update family members in the coming days as new information becomes available or as circumstances change. We are working closely with the health authorities to follow their guidance and will continue to be transparent with all information released to the authorities, family members and the wider public, while maintaining the dignity and privacy of each of our residents.” 

Some people expressed on social media posts on our previous reports about the issue for Windermere to be closed and the residents to be moved. But leaders replied that would be hard because they do not have the authority, the Department of Community Health does, and where would those residents go without risking infecting others.

Anyone who wants to contact attorney Austin Jackson can call 706-724-2661. You can also visit his website here.