Tuesday, March 17, 2020


As I write this, there have been two cases of COVID-19 identified in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  One of the victims recently returned from a business trip to Milan, Italy, where the outbreak of COVID-19 has reached over 2500 cases.

The death toll in the U.S. as of the morning of March 4, 2020, is 9, and the number of identified cases is more than 100.  Of those who have died In the U.S., all were between the ages of 63 and 95 and all apparently had serious underlying illnesses.  All of the victims lived in Washington state, and most of the victims – 5 of the 9- were residents or had been residents of the same skilled nursing facility in Kirkland, WA, a suburb of Seattle.

In an effort to contain the virus, the Kirkland, WA, skilled nursing facility banned visitors to the facility, and asked all residents to remain confined in their rooms. Some of the relatives of the residents have complained that they are not getting information from the facility about their loved ones and that they don’t know whether their relatives have been tested for the virus.  If you have loved ones in an assisted living facility or a nursing home, as I do, you may wonder what rights you have to be informed of the care of your relative.

Remember that the resident does have the right to privacy in the care they receive and in communications about that care. That means that the facility and the employees of the facility in many cases cannot share information without the permission of the resident.  If you are named as the agent under an Advanced Directive for Healthcare, and the resident no longer has the ability to make decisions, the facility should communicate with you and ask your permission for testing or treatment of the resident.

Residents of assisted living facilities and nursing homes do have the right to have visitors.  However, the facilities can restrict visitors if they have a good faith reason for doing so.  As in the case of the facility in WA, the good faith reason may be that they must attempt to contain further spread of the virus to the outside community.

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