Operators of high-end care facility in Los Angeles charged with 14 COVID deaths

The operators of a high-end Los Angeles care facility for dementia patients were charged on Tuesday with elder abuse and other charges related to the deaths of an employee and thirteen residents during from the early days of the pandemic.

Silverado Beverly Place, near the Fairfax neighborhood, specializes in the care of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and was the site of an outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020.

The employee and residents died in the outbreak, during which 45 employees and 60 residents were infected, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. The operators of the facility were sued in civil court by the families of several residents and the deceased employee. The facility was investigated by the 2020 Times.

The facility was to be closed to visitors, prosecutors said, when it admitted a patient from a New York psychiatric unit. Silverado Beverly Place’s own protocols required it not to admit anyone from a high-risk area like New York, which was then considered an epicenter of COVID-19.

Prosecutors say the patient was not tested for coronavirus when admitted and showed symptoms the next morning. But after testing positive, they were not quarantined, according to the criminal charges.

The facility’s management did not block visitors who traveled domestically or internationally within 14 days to areas with confirmed COVID-19 cases, prosecutors said.

“These reckless decisions created conditions that needlessly exposed Silverado staff and residents to serious injury and – tragically – death,” Dist said. Atti. George Gascón said in a statement.

Three managers were charged with 13 counts of elder endangerment and five counts of violation causing death. These latest charges were filed as part of the establishment’s management of the health and safety of its employees. Loren Bernard Shook, Jason Michael Russo and Kimberly Cheryl Butrum have been charged with Irvine’s company Silverado Senior Living Management Inc.

Prosecutors say the New York patient was admitted to Silverado Beverly Place due to financial considerations.

Investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health conducted a 2.5-year investigation into Silverado Beverly Place, whose parent company operates several care facilities across the country.

An email to Silverado Senior Living Management seeking comment on the charges did not receive an immediate response.

Gascón, at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles, also read the names of the 14 people who died.

They are nurse Brittany Bruner-Ringo, Elizabeth Cohen, Joseph Manduke, Catherine Apothaker, Jake Khorsandi, Albert Sarnoff, Dolores Sarnoff, Myrna Frank, Frank Piumetti, Jay Tedeman, Luba Paz, Kaye Kiddoo, Richard Herman and Michael Horn.

Bruner-Ringo told his mother that the newly admitted patient was showing signs of illness – profuse sweating, a “productive” cough and a fever approaching 103 degrees, his mother told The Times.

“I said, ‘These are definitely problematic,'” recalled Kim Bruner-Ringo, a veteran Oklahoma City nurse.

The patient was so sick that Brittany Bruner-Ringo called 911 for an ambulance, but it was too late. In the days and weeks that followed, the virus would spread through the facility.

Bruner-Ringo stopped breathing on April 20, 2020 in the intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, according to his family. She was 32 years old.

“I prayed every day that Brittany could tell her own story,” her sister Breanna Hurd said.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Alan Eisner, who is not involved in the case, views the charges as unique because they deal with decisions made by managers of a senior care facility over the course of from the early days of the pandemic.

“This is a once-in-a-generation pandemic,” Eisner said. “I don’t want to ignore all the people who died. But that’s a high bar for prosecutors to prove and show that the facility is responsible for the deaths of all the other patients and even the nurse.

Jody Moore, an attorney who represents seven clients who became ill with COVID-19 or died in Silverado, said that in early 2020 the federal government provided guidance to long-term care facilities on how to protect older residents, including screening and testing policies.

“It makes no sense to say loved ones can’t come in, private carers can’t come in, because their documentation says we’re putting residents at risk by exposing them to anything that can come in through the door. ‘entrance,’ Moore says. “What they allowed in through the front door was someone with dollars tied up. And that’s what really is gross misconduct here.

Helena Apothaker received an email from the facility at the start of the pandemic letting her know she would not be able to visit her mother, Catherine. The message said the facility was going to be locked down for the safety of its elderly residents.

“No one was allowed in,” Apothaker said in an interview with The Times. “They were going to keep our loved ones safe. It was their top priority. Well, not 30 days later, I guess they lost their top priority.

His mother had early Alzheimer’s disease, but was generally healthy, Apothaker said. After her mother tested positive for COVID-19, Apothaker placed her mother in hospice care and she was eventually allowed to visit him in person.

“I was in the building with my mom the week she passed away,” Apothaker said. “I can’t imagine what it must have been like for anyone who had to watch their parents die through a window or watch their loved ones die on FaceTime.”

Hearing that criminal charges have been filed against Silverado Beverly Place, Apothaker felt a sense of justice, as it feels like people have forgotten about the pandemic and the people who died.

“But I remember my mother died,” she said. “The only thing I had to cling to was the idea that maybe one day I would get justice.”

Times editor Harriet Ryan contributed to this report.

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