Coronavirus kills nearly two-dozen at Alabama veterans nursing home, dozens more are still fighting virus

Published 4:49 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020

About two dozen people have died at an Alabama veterans nursing home because of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, the state said Tuesday.

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement the 23 deaths occurred at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City, located about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southeast of Birmingham in rural Tallapoosa County.

The state-owned facility has a capacity of 150 residents, and 91 have tested positive for the coronavirus, the agency said.

A worker at the veterans home who tested positive for the virus on March 30 wasn’t allowed to enter, the statement said, and the first resident tested positive nine days later. All residents were tested on April 18, and the home still has 41 active cases among the residents.

No residents at the state’s other veterans home in Bay Minette, Huntsville or Pell City have tested positive, the department said, but three workers at the Bay Minette facility contracted the illness.

Reviews by the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs showed workers at the Bill Nichols home had followed guidelines for using protective gear and other preventive measures, the statement said.

A National Guard unit decontaminated the home, and residents who test positive are being isolated.

A group of U.S. senators is seeking an investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs’ oversight of homes for aging veterans amid a wave of coronavirus deaths at the state-run centers. More than 70 veterans sickened by the coronavirus died at a home in Massachusetts, and more than 85 people died at two homes in New York.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.