Family: Loved one with COVID-19 dies at Healthcare Center on Beth Sholom campus

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 2:47 PM EDT
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - A Henrico family is mourning the death of their loved one who they say died at Beth Sholom Tuesday after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Deborah Vuturo said her father, Robert Accomando, 81, was diagnosed with the disease on April 9 and passed away five days later in his room in Unit 3 at the Healthcare Center on the Beth Sholom campus.

“I was getting ready to go there and I get a phone call that he passed away a little after noon,” Vuturo said. “Nobody was calling me. I know that they’re really busy and everything, but they don’t keep the families informed like they should.”

Tuesday night the facility announced more than 25 residents and staff members at the Healthcare Center had tested positive for COVID-19. That number had more than doubled since the previous update five days earlier.

“All our residents are being treated within our Healthcare Center which is on isolation from the rest of our campus,” said President and CEO Morris Funk in a news release Tuesday. “At this time, the Healthcare Center is the only building at Beth Sholom that has confirmed cases.”

However, the news release posted on the Beth Sholom website Tuesday did not mention the death. Neither did the public updates on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a separate email sent to NBC12 on Thursday evening, the facility said it will not share information regarding deaths because loss of life at senior living facilities happens on a regular basis and they did not share numbers prior, so they will not start sharing them now.

“While the number of COVID-19 cases is important for our families to know about, we see the loss of life as a sacred and family matter that is private and should not be publicized, although reporting is made to appropriate authorities," the email said.

The Henrico County Department of Health would not confirm the death at this time either.

“They send us these email updates and there’s nothing about someone passing away and I know my dad passed away,” Vuturo said.

In Thursday’s update, Funk said the facility did not have enough test kits to test everyone within the different buildings on campus, therefore only the residents in the Healthcare Center would be tested. Again, the Healthcare Center is the only building on campus with positive cases.

“We have a team from the Health Department that will be assisting us to conduct the tests,” Funk said. "The team will be wearing personal protective equipment when they are with each resident to ensure the safety of everyone involved.”

The facility is also working on a plan to test all staff in the Healthcare Center, but have to first secure the test kits and staffing support.

“It is important to note that this testing will help us identify if we need to reassess how we cohort our residents,” Funk said. “All residents in the Healthcare Center will remain in isolation in their respective rooms. As we noted before, that facility has a dedicated staff that only works in that facility.”

According to the facility, the first resident tested positive for the disease on March 26, two weeks after the facility went on a campus-wide closure. That resident lived in the Parkside Assisted Living facility on campus.

Beth Sholom said the resident was initially isolated in their room after moving to the Healthcare Center to avoid further spread before being transported to a local hospital for medical treatment.

However, as the days progressed, the virus continued to spread, according to facility officials.

“Last week we were trying to keep all the confirmed cases to a single floor but even that is no longer possible,” Funk said.

“It’s a horrible thing when you can’t be with the person you love, and they pass away and you can’t be with them,” Vuturo said.

Since February 2019, Vuturo said her strong-minded Italian father lived on the Beth Sholom campus, mainly in the Healthcare Center building. He had Parkinson’s Disease but Vuturo said her father appeared to be doing fine.

“Everybody loved him, they did," she said. "They would say your dad is so great. He was the karaoke king. You give him a microphone and you weren’t getting it back.”

However on April 7, less than two weeks after his 81st birthday, Accomando started showing coronavirus symptoms.

“He had a fever the night before of 99 degree and he was coughing a little,” she said. “They told me they listened to his chest and heard some crackling in the lower part of his lungs.”

Accomando was tested for COVID-19 and kept in his Unit 1 room at the Healthcare Center until April 9 when he was moved to Unit 3 after the test came back positive, according to Vuturo.

“[Friday] things started to get bad,” she said. “They told me he was unresponsive and he had not woken up. They told me he was not taking any medicine by mouth; he couldn’t swallow.”

She and her husband visited with Accomando outside his window shortly after but did not see any response.

On Tuesday afternoon Vuturo said she got a phone call from the nurse saying her father had died. That’s the same day the facility announced more than 25 residents and staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I’m floored they have 25 cases,” Vuturo said.

However, what’s left her even more baffled is her father’s death hasn’t been mentioned in any of the facility’s public updates.

"I just find that so disrespectful,” Vuturo said.

Vuturo feels other families with loved ones should know about the death.

Meanwhile, plenty of her friends learned about Accomando’s death and showed their support for the family in a big way Wednesday night; in a 10 minute long caravan.

“There are no words to describe how amazing that was," Vuturo said. "I know my dad was looking down so happy; that was incredible.”

According to the facility’s update on Wednesday, they were working with the Henrico Health Department to test all of the residents in the Healthcare Center location.

“Accessing the number of kits necessary to complete that testing has been extremely difficult,” Funk said. “The lag time between a time a person is tested, and the results are received is slow and creating challenges for everyone involved. That aspect is out of our control.”

Funk also added in Thursday’s public update they expect the number of positive cases to increase at Beth Sholom as all residents in the Healthcare Center on campus get tested.

“We are confident that we have the resources necessary to meet that challenge,” Funk said. “Senior living centers all over the Commonwealth are facing similar challenges. We have been receiving strong support from the Henrico County Health Department and we expect that to continue in the days ahead.”

The facility says it will share appropriate information regarding the number of cases of COVID-19 at Beth Sholom but will not share their conditions.

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