Family members hold photographs of Nancy Finney, who they say died of COVID-19 while living at Arbor Terrace at Cascade, an assisted living community in Fulton County. They attended a press conference near the facility Friday to call attention to the outbreak at the home and to urge that more be done. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Fulton officials want more done to stem outbreak at senior care home

Two Fulton County Commissioners said Friday they want to make sure state and local officials are doing everything possible to protect residents of an assisted living facility where a coronavirus outbreak has already claimed the lives of 15 seniors.

Arbor Terrace at Cascade, an assisted living home in Fulton, is the site of one of the state’s most deadly outbreaks. The majority of the facility’s residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

“I don’t want to see another death occur in that facility,” said Fulton County Commissioner Joe Carn. “It’s probably the worst news we have gotten in the community in many, many years.”

Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. said he didn’t want to point fingers or blame anyone but wanted to make sure all the resources available were dedicated to safeguarding the remaining residents. “Whatever is being done is not enough,” Arrington said.

Georgia Sen. Donzella James talks at a press conference near the Arbor Terrace at Cascade facility on Friday. On Thursday, she wrote to Gov. Brian Kemp, asking him to consider closing the facility, where the coronavirus outbreak has claimed 15 lives. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The situation at the home also has drawn attention of state Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, who wrote Gov. Brian Kemp a letter Thursday urging him to consider closing the home. “Despite the best efforts of their amazing staff, this home has turned into a petri dish ravaging those most vulnerable,” she wrote.

The first report of a resident testing positive for coronavirus came March 26, Arbor said. When it was notified, Arbor said it “immediately put the community in quarantine and executed our outbreak plan to deliver care, meals, and engagement to all residents in their apartments.”

Arbor also immediately called in the Fulton County Board of Health, which tested all the residents and worked with the facility and the state Department of Health to try to contain the outbreak. The company said it also made sure the facility had enough masks, gowns and other protective equipment and hired a professional cleaning company to sanitize the building. The state also sent the Georgia National Guard in to clean, too.

In addition, Arbor said it supported its staff with pay increases, additional paid sick leave and payment of child care costs.

Yet more residents later were found to be infected. More than 30 of the home’s 80 staff members have also tested positive, though results have not been reported yet for all employees.

The 15 deaths occurred between March 29 and April 12.

Arbor Terrace at Cascade is one of 156 long-term care facilities in Georgia with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the governor’s office.

Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, interim director of the Fulton Board of Health, whose office ordered testing of the entire Arbor facility, said that outbreaks in long-term care settings can be difficult to contain. “Everybody’s being extremely aggressive and trying to manage this,” she said.

But some families who have lost loved ones wonder if all the right precautions were taken.

Tilafayea Walker said her aunt, Nancy Finney, was among the 15 Arbor residents who died.

“Right now I have several emotions – one is anger,” Walker said. She said the facility hasn’t responded to her calls since her aunt’s death.

Walker said family members visited until the virus prompted long-term care homes across the state to stop allowing visitors in. She doesn’t know what was done in the days before Finney went to the hospital, where she died.

“We’re a big family — someone was there to visit her pretty much every day,” she said. “To know she spent her last moments by herself, that is heartbreaking.”

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