Carmel mayor: Nursing homes that don’t test for COVID-19 could risk ‘reckless homicide’ case

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After urging local assisted living centers and nursing homes April 3 to test employees for COVID-19, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard followed up several days later by alerting those not conducting tests that they could be held responsible if residents there die from the disease.

Several senior living centers didn’t plan to implement proactive testing as of April 6, Brainard said. He sent officials at those facilities a letter – either by email or hand-delivered by police – imploring them to change their policies.

“I do not have the authority to order you to do testing. I do believe, however, that failure to test your staff on a weekly basis now that tests are readily available constitutes extreme negligence as well as putting you personally at risk for reckless homicide if someone dies as a result of you not testing your staff,” Brainard stated in the letter. “Reckless homicide carries a prison term. In general, recklessness refers to actions where a person is aware of, but ignores, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of serious injury to another.”

After consulting with medical professionals, Brainard asked senior care facilities to test staff, and if a positive result is found, to test residents as well. Seniors are more likely to suffer serious complications as a result of the disease, which can sometimes lead to death. In Indiana, approximately 20 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have been among people age 70 and older, while nearly 70 percent of the state’s deaths have occurred in that age group.

“The COVID-19 virus impacts the elderly far more than others,” Brainard stated. “Countries and areas that have been successful in stopping the spread of the virus have engaged in widespread testing and then isolation of those that test positive. This has allowed their hospitals and health care workers not to be overwhelmed and bought time for the scientific community to devise treatments and hopefully soon a vaccine.”

Brainard stated that he consulted with doctors from the State Board of Health and area hospital administrators and medical directors to ensure they had adequate COVID-19 testing for patients and hospital workers before announcing last week that the city would require weekly COVID-19 tests for all of its first responders. The city will soon require testing of all city employees and dependents on the city’s health plan.

Aria Diagnostics, a company on the Indianapolis-Carmel border, is providing the city’s tests and has enough to offer testing at senior care facilities, Brainard stated. The company will provide a nurse to conduct testing at the senior living facilities.

The Aria tests cost $175 each. Brainard stated the tests should be considered “a cost of doing business” and that it will likely be eligible for reimbursement under federal law.

Current has reached out to several Carmel nursing homes for comment.

This story will be updated.

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