Families of COVID-19 victims speak out as nursing home death toll rises in Orange County

Orange County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The number of COVID-19 deaths at nursing homes continues to rise in Orange County where 40 residents have died due to complications from the virus.

According to data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 20 residents have died at Pruitt Health – Carolina Point in Durham, and another 20 residents have died at Signature Healthcare in Chapel Hill.

Data from NCDHHS also said that there are 188 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at three different nursing homes in Orange County. These include Pruitt Health – Carolina Point where there are 112 cases, Signature Healthcare in Chapel Hill where there are 72 cases, and Parkview Health and Rehabilitation Center in Chapel Hill where there are 4 cases.

Some families who have had loved ones die at these facilities are concerned about the rising number of deaths.

Ruth Corkum’s brother, Clyde Vowell, died from complications of COVID-19 in April 2020 after he contracted the virus at Pruitt Health – Carolina Point.

She said her family is still waiting to have a proper funeral.

“At least you can take an hour to honor the memory of a brother that you have had for 74 years, I couldn’t do that,” Corkum said.

Corkum said her brother was rushed to the hospital on April 3rd where he tested positive for COVID-19.

Vowell died the next day.

Corkum is questioning why her brother was not tested sooner at the facility.

“If you’re not going to bother to test them, what are you doing? Waiting for them to die?” Corkum said.

Orange County spokesperson Todd McGee said it was difficult for county health officials to get in front of the outbreak when it started.

“It was circulating before we knew about it,” McGee said.

He said now the county has organized a strike team made up of Orange County Health officials and hospital personnel from UNC and Duke Hospitals who visit nursing homes when an outbreak is reported.

The team will test all of the residents and staff at the nursing home.

CBS 17 reached out to Pruitt Health -Carolina Point for a comment, but they were not available to speak on camera on Thursday.

However, in an email officials with the facility said they began testing as aggressively as the testing supply allowed them to do so.

Pruitt Health officials also said they are actively monitoring patients, screening staff, and they have recently bought isolation units to work to contain the virus.

Corkum said she just doesn’t want another family to go through what she went through last month.

“I can’t hold anyone accountable, but I can be very upset at the nursing home for not doing what they should’ve been doing,” Corkum said.

According to NCDHHS, there are 188 cases at nursing homes in Orange County. According to their data, 152 residents and 36 staff members at three different facilities have the virus.

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