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Lawsuit says Lapeer nursing home banned workers from using masks as COVID-19 spread

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 18:35:47-04

LAPEER, Michigan (WXYZ) — You can’t completely prevent the spread of COVID-19, but a lawsuit says one nursing home banned workers from taking precautions with tragic consequences.

Sixty-eight-year-old Wanda Parker’s son Denny Williams will never forget their last visit through her window.

“All she kept saying was please help me. I still don’t sleep well because of that. I have nightmares about it,” he said.

He says he and his mom’s husband noticed workers at the Villages of Lapeer Nursing and Rehabilitation not wearing PPE. They called and complained on behalf of their mom. Then they got a call from a hospital. Wanda had COVID-19 and would not make it.

“She was taken from us for no good reason,” Williams said.

He and some workers at the Villages of Lapeer Nursing and Rehabilitation are now suing. They say workers were banned from wearing masks because their boss thought masks would scare patients. One worker who is suing says she told her boss her mom’s cancer doctors told her to wear one.

“In order for me to be around my mother I have to wear this mask. You can’t wear it and she snatched it off my face and threw it in the trash,” said Taylor Minifield, a former CNA at Villages of Lapeer.

“She sent one girl home. About 45 minutes later she sent another girl home, both because they refused to take their masks off,” said Tasha Harden, a former CNA at Villages of Lapeer who is also suing.

Tasha Harden and Taylor Minefield both say they voiced concerns that patients were showing symptoms of COVID-19, but the management did not have them tested. They were forced to care for them without sufficient protection.

They say when they started having possible COVID-19 symptoms in March they were told to continue working. They soon became too sick to work and suffered permanent lung damage. Tasha says her daughter caught the virus from her and was hospitalized.

“My lung function is now only at 77%,” Harden said.

“I have to have my inhaler. I have to take it every six hours in order to breathe,” Minifield said.

“The conduct of that nursing home was so reckless,” said Jim Rasor, of the Rasor Law Firm.

The lawyers representing CNAs and Wanda’s family at the Rasor Law Firm say the nursing home had masks, and thanked the community for donations on Facebook, but refused to let workers use them.

“The facility was getting donations of these things that the D.O.N. locked in her office,” said Andrew J. Laurila, of the Rasor Law Firm.

The Lapeer County Health Department received multiple complaints about workers pressured to work while sick. It stepped in to force improvements.

According to the state 47 patients and 16 workers got sick. 19 patients lost their lives to COVID-19.

The Villages of Lapeer released a statement saying, “Due to the fact that the matters being inquired about are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide comment. We can say that The Villages of Lapeer has been and will continue to cooperate with the involved parties. Please be assured that The Villages of Lapeer is committed to continuing to provide high quality care and support to our residents and their families, as well as support for all of our staff during these challenging times.“

“They cost my mom and a lot of other people their lives and made a lot of people sick,” Williams said.

He and the CNAs suing say they hope the lawsuit prevents what happened at The Villages from happening at other facilities.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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