Jerusalem nursing home residents mourn Israel’s first coronavirus victim

Head of residents’ association says virus, old age and underlying health problems create perfect storm, after 88-year-old Aryeh Even becomes country’s first fatality in pandemic

Jerusalem's Nofim Tower sheltered living facility. (Courtesy)
Jerusalem's Nofim Tower sheltered living facility. (Courtesy)

Residents of a Jerusalem nursing home where Israel’s first fatality in the global coronavirus had lived, on Saturday said that they were saddened by the death of the 88-year-old man but that such things were in many ways routine for them. (The fatality was later named as Aryeh Even.)

“He was a lovely Jerusalem man who lived his life with family and children,” Nofim Tower resident and head of tenants association, Zvika Levy, told the Walla news site. “We all know each other, it’s always sad that a friend is dead, but with us it’s also part of our routine. Of course we felt it when we heard about his death.”

Levy wryly told Channel 12 news that “age, underlying illnesses and the coronavirus is a nice combination,” adding that the assisted living facility was unaware of any further infections since the first nine residents were diagnosed.

Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center said Friday that the patient had been admitted in very serious condition with multiple preexisting conditions. Despite intensive treatment, including being resuscitated from heart failure, he deteriorated rapidly and died, the hospital said.

Aryeh Even, Israel’s first fatality in the coronavirus pandemic (Courtesy)

According to Hebrew media reports, the man, along with an 89-year-old Jerusalem woman fighting for her life in Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, were among several residents of the Nofim senior home in Jerusalem who have come down with the disease.

Shulamit Levy, another tenant, said: “I am a nurse by profession, and I understand what happens when someone is in difficult condition at this age. What can be done? Very older people, it is very sad, but we are used to the way here every time you hear that someone is dead.”

Levy said that she hopes soon to be allowed to leave her apartment at Nofim and said it was very difficult to not see her family.

Medical staff seen after the arrival of a patient to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, over suspicions she may be infected with the Coronavirus on January 27, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We are waiting to be released from the apartments at least. Not just to be constantly imprisoned, even though they are sending us treats. But it’s hard for me not to see the children, the family. We use the phone, we have no choice,” Levy said.

Nofim Tower CEO Rafi Pollak told Channel 13 on March 15 that he was losing control of the situation and pleaded for the Health Ministry to get involved.

“It’s a losing battle from the get-go,” he said, comparing his facility to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that became stranded in the waters outside of Japan in January due to a coronavirus outbreak among passengers on board.

View of Jaffa street in downtown Jerusalem on March 20, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The disease generally only shows mild symptoms in the young and healthy, but can cause serious respiratory issues and death in older adults and those with underlying conditions.

The condition of three other Israelis being treated at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon for COVID-19 deteriorated Friday, with all of them in serious to critical condition.

The three patients were a 67-year-old woman with a preexisting medical condition, a 91-year-old woman, and 45-year-old man with no past health problems, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Shortly before midnight Friday, an 82-year-old man was transferred to Hasharon Medical Center in Petah Tikva in critical condition.

Another 10 people infected with the virus are receiving treatment at the hospital, three of them in moderate condition.

Also Friday, the condition of a 57-year-old man with COVID-19 at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem worsened. He was now listed in serious condition.

Meanwhile, the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa said the condition of a 70-year-old man with a previous illness had deteriorated and that he was in serious condition, sedated and on a respirator.

According to the Health Ministry’s latest figures, released midday Friday, there have been 705 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Israel, with 9 people in serious condition.

The ministry also said 18 people were in moderate condition and that the rest had mild symptoms.

A total of 15 people have recovered from COVID-19 and been released to their homes.

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