A nursing home in Bnei Brak saw 24 of its residents test positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, with staff accusing the Health Ministry of waiting more than a week before conducting the tests.
The elderly are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, with most fatalities in Israel and abroad over 70 years of age. Previous outbreaks in nursing homes in Israel have resulted in a high number of deaths, including 13 residents of a Beersheba facility and 12 residents of another one in Yavniel in the north.
Bnei Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv, is Israel’s hardest-hit city and one of the country’s virus epicenters.
Despite that, the manager of the Ateret Avot nursing home has said the government was reluctant to approve testing for all residents and staff, and that he wasn’t updated about the outbreak by authorities but rather by the families of those who tested positive.
“Instead of letting us inform them with the aid of a social worker, they directly informed the residents,” the nursing home manager, Eli Biran, told Hebrew-language media.
The outbreak began with one resident, a woman who frequently went to Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan for dialysis treatment and allegedly caught the virus there from a confirmed carrier. (The hospital claims she had already been displaying COVID-19 symptoms when she arrived.)
Biran said the woman was sent to the hospital and her roommate and several staff members were put in isolation.
“We started pressuring the Health Ministry to test everyone,” he said. “The system kept stalling for time. Only on Friday did they agree to test the residents and employees.”
All the infected residents will be hospitalized or are already hospitalized, according to the Ynet news site, even though Biran said none of them have been showing symptoms.
The nursing home has four departments for more disabled residents, and results of their tests haven’t yet come back, Biran told the Globes website. Families of residents have been calling and begging for answers, but Biran said that “we don’t have a clue whom to contact.”
The Health Ministry has not commented on the matter.
Four elderly people died overnight Sunday from COVID-19, including a member of an assisted living facility in Yavne’el, bringing the coronavirus death toll in Israel to 109.
According to Health Ministry figures Sunday evening, Israel has 11,145 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 183 in serious condition and 131 people on ventilators.
Another 155 people were in moderate condition, the ministry said, with the rest having mild symptoms, and 1,627 had recovered.
Almost all of those who have died from COVID-19 in Israel have been elderly and suffered from preexisting conditions, according to hospital officials. The novel coronavirus has been spreading quickly in nursing homes around the country, raising intense concern for the safety of elderly residents.