Health Investigations

About 40 people who live or work at a western Kentucky nursing home will be tested for the COVID-19 disease after a woman who lived at the facility tested positive this week, according to county officials.

The River’s Bend Retirement Community is located in Lyon County. The 94-year-old woman is one of three people that have tested positive in the county.

Lyon County Judge Executive Wade White said state officials were initially reluctant to provide tests to check fellow residents and workers who interacted with the woman. White, a Republican in office since 2011, said he expected state officials to be more responsive, considering the heightened risk of the disease spreading in a nursing home.

“It’s just different when it’s a nursing home,” he said. 

The state will provide at least nine tests and about 30 are being provided by local hospitals, White said. 

“We didn’t just wait around after the state said they would just test one person,” he said.

“We’re wanting to test everyone and get this under control.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Andy Beshear did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

Staff at River’s Bend Retirement Community refused to comment and hung up the phone several times when a reporter called seeking information. Federal records show the facility is rated above average, though a 2017 inspection found that the nursing home failed to “have a program that investigates, controls and keeps infection from spreading.” Records show the deficiency was corrected.

White said several staff members that were in contact with the woman who tested positive are under self-isolation, and he feels confident the nursing home is taking necessary measures to help prevent the spread.

He expects all of the tests to be conducted by Thursday evening and delivered to the state testing lab shortly after by the Lyon County Sheriff. The aim is to test everyone who works and lives on the residential wing that the woman who tested positive lived.

‘We had to start all over’

The positive test was for Jean Massamore, according to Lee Anne Teague, her granddaughter. She began exhibiting symptoms on March 26, starting with a sore throat, she said. By the following Sunday she could hardly finish a sentence without falling short of breath.

Teague said her grandmother’s temperature spiked and she was transported by ambulance from the nursing home to the Marshall County Hospital. She was tested for an array of viruses, all of which came back negative, before she was tested for COVID-19.

The hospital discharged her, but the nursing home refused to allow her back, Teague said. So, Teague, who lives in Tennessee, said she got a hotel room in Paris, Tennessee, with handicap access and waited for the results. 

“I was crying my eyes out,” she said.

Teague said her grandmother had been vigilant about wiping down touch points with bleach wipes and maintaining her distance from other nursing home residents. She had bronchitis and recently beat a bout of pneumonia. 

On Tuesday, Teague said she got a call from a nursing home staffer who said her grandmother had tested negative. She was overcome with joy, and they celebrated with hugs, kisses and takeout from a local restaurant.

About five hours later, a health department official called — the test was actually positive. Teague suspects a nursing home staffer misread the results.

“Then we had to start all over, and had to think of what to do,” she said.

Now, Teague has moved her grandmother into her own home and is under self-imposed quarantine. She fears for her daughter and husband, who both were in close proximity to her grandmother after thinking she was free from the virus. She worries how she’ll maintain her two home healthcare businesses she runs if she falls sick herself.

And she wonders how the virus was able to get into the nursing home, since visitation ended weeks ago — and she’s worried about the other residents.

But for now, her focus is on her grandmother, who Teague said helped raise her as a child.

“She is declining and my heart is breaking,” she said. “I juggle caring for her, and keeping our family in the loop with the looming fear of me getting sick myself while she still needs me.”

Thursday evening, Teague said she had begun showing symptoms herself, and she is going to be tested on Friday.

 Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.