COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- (KRDO) More than 700 people have died due to COVID-19 at Colorado nursing homes, yet there have been no lawsuits filed against those facilities where outbreaks have occurred.
In Colorado Springs, there have been two major COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes. According to the State's outbreak data, MorningStar at Mountain Shadow had 15 residents contract the virus, and eight died. The second is at Laurel Manor Care Center where 25 people tested positive and eight died.
David McDivitt with the McDivitt Law Firm in Colorado Springs says he is not currently working on litigation against nursing homes in El Paso County.
“It’s closed off right now and it’s actually very difficult to get access to residents to find out a little bit more of what’s taking place,” McDivitt said.
However, he expects that to change once the pandemic starts to dial back and those investigations start to take place.
“As we become more aware of the violations and the failures on the part of the ownership of these nursing homes to protect their residents and their staff, I think we are going to start more activity in the legal sphere," McDivitt said.
We asked McDivitt what could have led to such massive outbreaks at these facilities since before Colorado had its first reported case, it was known that the senior population was the most vulnerable to the virus.
“What I can assume is in a facility where you have a massive spread of coronavirus is going to be largely due to failure to have adequate infection control policies and to follow those policies,” said McDivitt, adding that these nursing homes should have already had an infectious disease outbreak plan in place even before coronavirus.
McDivitt says it starts with an issue that commonly leads to neglect and even death at nursing homes: a lack of staffing.
"When ownership fails to adequately staff these facilities, what happens is you have inadequate supervision," he said. "When you have inadequate supervision, what naturally follows from that is inadequate infection control and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”
With staff being stretched thin, it can lead to simple precautions being overlooked.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s the basics that fall to the side too such as hand washing, such as enforcing masks protocols, temperature checks,” the attorney said.
The Washington Post reported that an inspection of a Pueblo nursing home discovered that employees were not wearing face-masks, washing their hands, or isolating residents. However, McDivitt believes once things start to return to our new normal, and the State starts looking closer into these facilities where outbreaks happened, we will get a better view of what exactly went from at these locations.
“I think what we are seeing right now is the tip of the iceberg," McDivitt says. "What’s going to happen is as there is more opening of these nursing homes, we’re going to start to see more and more what’s really been happening behind these closed doors.”