Seven More at Israeli Assisted Living Facility Diagnosed With Novel Coronavirus

All are only slightly ill, but facility now left understaffed and untested

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
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Health workers disinfecting the Migdal Nofim nursing home in Jerusalem, March 16, 2020.
Health workers disinfecting the Migdal Nofim nursing home in Jerusalem, March 16, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

An 80-year-old resident of a Jerusalem assisted living facility and six staff members – including two migrant workers – have contracted the coronavirus, in addition to the first staff member who tested positive for the virus last week.

All are only slightly ill. Two other women residents were taken to the hospital on Sunday after they showed symptoms of the disease, but their test results have not come back yet.

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The 80-year-old man was taken to the hospital by Magen David Adom, but brought back to the facility, Migdal Nofim, after it was decided that he was not sick. However, three hours later he showed symptoms and was taken back to the hospital, and on Sunday evening was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

All the residents of Migdal Nofim are in isolation in their rooms, but the Health Ministry is not testing them despite the spread of the virus and the fact that their age puts them in the high-risk group. The Health Ministry has also not checked whether the residents were near people who were diagnosed with the virus. “I asked and they told me the tests are not valid if there are no symptoms,” said Migdal Nofim’s CEO, Rafi Pollak, said.

Last week, the facility’s social worker contracted the disease from a French citizen who attended a wedding where she was also a guest. After that, several staff members were placed in isolation, including Pollak and the facility’s chief physician. Two days later, a migrant worker caring for one of the residents collapsed and was hospitalized. Four others, two migrant workers and two Migdal Nofim nurses, also tested positive on Sunday.

“We’re pressuring for recognition as a disaster zone,” the chairman of the residents’ committee, Zvika Levy, said. “Let them start testing the residents, not just people who show symptoms.”

“They didn’t even check the people on the same floor as the sick ones,” he said. “The healthcare system has to consider the place very problematic, given the drama of the entire country. There are 170 residents here. There could be a catastrophe,” Levy said.

Meanwhile, the condition of the residents is good, Pollak and Levy said, but they say they are concerned about attrition. About 100 of the residents are alone in their rooms while others are couples. “It’s very strange. Yesterday people were in good spirits. There was a feeling of being able to deal with it and everyone wanted to help,” Levy said. “But now I’m afraid that with time, depression will set in. A day or two is alright, but there has to be an end to this joke. There are 100 people sitting alone at home and that’s not easy.”

The facility is now severely understaffed because most of the employees are in isolation. “I have no nurses; I have no doctor in the building,” Pollak said. “I’ve reduced office staff because I don’t want people to get infected. I only have one maintenance man who doesn’t leave the premises. The residents are alright. We’re communicating with them but I’m very worried…. I feel that I’m one step behind the events.”

“The situation is not good,” he added.

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the Jerusalem assisted living facility as Nofei Yerushalayim. The facility is called Migdal Nofim.

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