Recently, almost 1.8 million cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States, including more than 100,000 deaths. These numbers are even higher on a global scale, and many experts have suggested that the reported numbers are far less than the true impact of the disease. The spread of COVID-19 prompted nationwide shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, and strict social-distancing guidelines to flatten the curve.
As governmental guidelines were implemented, some businesses did not protect clients, customers, workers, residents, and others from the dangers of Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned that we do not completely understand the transmission of COVID-19, especially in those who are asymptomatic, making it even more important to comply with social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders.
Poor choices and the failure of some organizations to take necessary measures to lessen the impact of COVID-19 has led to several “clusters,” which are high concentrations of infection in the same place at the same time. Below, we discuss some of the most common cluster scenarios regarding the spread of the virus, and why those organizations might have liability for certain damages relating to the contraction of COVID-19.
If you have contracted COVID-19, or if a loved one has died as a result of a negligent organization, you may have legal rights that could result in compensation. Contact the personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group and Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA online, or call 833-552-7274, to discuss the details of your case and to learn about an appropriate course of action for your individual circumstances. Although our offices are located throughout Florida, we advocate for clients throughout the United States.
In a recent month, it was reported that more than 40 percent of all COVID-19 related deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, making them the largest clusters. Some states have fatality rates that are more than 60 percent and more than 80 percent of Minnesota's COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes. COVID-19 poses the greatest risk to the elderly and those with poor health. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities house the sick and elderly in tight spaces, increasing their risk for infections.
Long-term nursing care facilities of all types have a legal obligation to protect their residents. Part of this includes maintaining a safe and clean environment with a decreased risk of contracting disease and infection. Some argue that the highly rapid spread of COVID-19 did not allow the nation's care facilities the time to protect residents.
Yet, many investigations into COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes have revealed that many nursing homes did not do enough to prevent an outbreak within their facilities. Nursing homes are responsible for a resident's environment and should take proper measures to help maintain safety and cleanliness, and help reduce the likelihood that residents will contract illnesses, even those that are highly contagious.
Examples of ways that nursing home negligence has led to COVID-19 outbreaks include:
- Failure to create a comprehensive response plan to COVID-19 or failure to assemble a committee to create the plan.
- Failure to coordinate and communicate with local public health entities regarding COVID-19 response plans.
- Failure to create or utilize a system to monitor and review virus contraction and contagion among residents and staff.
- Failure to restrict visitors and non-essential staff when appropriate.
- Failure to screen residents for symptoms.
- Failure to quarantine residents suspected of having COVID-19.
- Failure to report confirmed coronavirus cases to public health authorities and families.
- Failure to provide residents, nurses, nursing assistants, and other staff with personal protective equipment (PPE) like soap, gloves, face masks, and hand sanitizer.
- Failure to properly or adequately clean and disinfect facilities.
- Failure to send potentially ill employees home when displaying symptoms of the virus.
- Allowing nursing assistants to work short-staffed, resulting in neglect of residents and neglect of safety procedures.
Cruise ship passengers were some of the first noticeable clusters of COVID-19 infections when the virus first began to spread. Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess was the first large cruise liner to have an outbreak. The ship was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, for about a month beginning on February 4, 2020. More than 700 people contracted the virus and 14 people died.
Although the Diamond Princess was first, it was not the last cruise ship to experience a COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, in a recent month, approximately 50 cruise ships have had outbreaks, 15 of which docked in United States port cities. A significant outbreak occurred on a cruise ship, the Disney Wonder, bound for the United States. Approximately 200 passengers and crew members contracted the virus out of about 1,900. Fortunately, no deaths occurred.
The confined quarters of a cruise ship can create a perfect storm for the spread of infection, especially those that are highly contagious. It is possible that social distancing and other safety measures could have decreased the likelihood of an outbreak, but cruise lines had no plans or preparations to deal with the virus. In recent months, those who have filed COVID-19 lawsuits against a cruise line have claimed Princess and other companies were negligent by letting passengers board without notifying them of an outbreak on the previous voyage, and for not providing proper PPE.
Many cruise lines continued to set sail after the CDC issued a travel alert on March 8, 2020, for cruising because of the coronavirus risk. According to reporting and analysis by the Miami Herald, at least eight ships had COVID-19 cases, totaling 309 cases and three deaths.
Christian churches have adopted a wide array of stances about worship during the pandemic. In most states, churches were required to close and were deemed non-essential under stay-at-home orders. In some cases, religious leaders conducted services online, held drive-in services, or simply closed to comply with social-distancing guidelines. Eager to reopen, some churches began services prematurely, and many leaders put pressure on the government to reopen houses of worship. Those churches that continued to hold services became locations for clusters of COVID-19 cases in many states.
The CDC warns of the quick spread of the virus in large gatherings. In a service in Arkansas, two COVID-19 positive people attended a church service, leading 35 out of 92 attendees to contract the virus and three to die. Another church cluster occurred in Mount Vernon, Washington, where two people died and three were hospitalized. Only one person out of the 61 attendees felt sick during choir practice, and 52 others contracted the virus. If your church or another place of worship failed to protect you or a loved one from COVID-19, you might hold them liable for damages.
Jails and Prisons
Some extremely large cluster outbreaks in the United States have occurred in jails and prisons. More than 1,000 inmates and staff at a federal prison complex in Santa Barbara County in California have been one of the largest clusters in the nation. California has had at least two more prison outbreaks and a jail outbreak of COVID-19, but they are not the only state dealing with these clusters. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that they have a prison population close to 136,000, more than 12,000 in community-based facilities, and approximately 36,000 staff members.
Recent records have indicated that 1,650 federal inmates and 171 staff members throughout the nation have had positive COVID-19 test results; a few more than 3,600 inmates and 445 staff have recovered. No staff members have died as of the date of the report, but 68 inmates have lost their lives from contracting the virus. This does not include privately run prisons.
In jails and prisons, it is nearly impossible to maintain full social distancing. Facilities that have not taken appropriate measures to screen staff and new intakes may be responsible for spreading COVID-19 among inmates. Many prisons and jails that have experienced a cluster outbreak have not complied with CDC guidelines, putting inmates and staff at risk.
Some examples of ways correctional facilities' negligence can lead to a cluster outbreak include:
- Failure to screen for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Failure to quarantine those who display symptoms.
- Failure to social distance as much as possible.
- Failure to do deep cleaning and disinfect surfaces that inmates frequently touch.
- Failure to provide face coverings for inmates and staff.
Manufacturing plants throughout the United States have also been dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Although a variety of plants have seen clusters, they have been most prevalent among those that manufacture food. In fact, large meatpacking plants have experienced clusters of COVID-19 at the same degree as nursing homes and jails. According to the CDC, approximately 5,000 meatpacking plant employees contracted the virus and 20 died, recently. The conditions in meatpacking plants can make it difficult to maintain safety, but it has been even worse during the pandemic.
Those who work in meatpacking plants need to use knives, meat grinders, and other tools and machinery which may lead to catastrophic injuries on a regular basis and chronic injuries for those engaging in repetitive motions. The same unsafe and hazardous working conditions that can lead to injury may also contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Meatpacking requires employees to work close to one another and labor is required at a rate that can make it incredibly difficult to practice protective gestures, such as covering coughs and sneezes, while keeping up with the pace. When one person gets an infection, it can easily create an outbreak, especially when something is highly contagious.
Meatpacking plants are only one example of manufacturing hot spots within the manufacturing industry. Whether workers are processing chicken, packing frozen vegetables, or building light bulbs, they have a high risk of contracting COVID-19 because most industrial and manufacturing jobs require that employees work close to one another on some type of assembly or packing line.
You have likely seen news reports about most of the previously listed clusters, but cluster outbreaks in the construction industry have largely flown under the radar. Federal guidelines and orders, as well as state-level stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, have treated the construction industry as an essential business. Construction workers throughout the nation have still been erecting buildings and houses. In Austin, Texas, Travis County officials have estimated that more than half of new COVID-19 clusters are in the construction industry.
In general, the construction industry is low-risk for the spread of coronavirus because workers often work independently from one another, leading to organic social distancing. Yet, failure for some companies to provide protective equipment or take other appropriate measures to protect their workers can contribute to contracting the virus. The Associated General Contractors of America have created a safety campaign in which they had work crews stop working and break into smaller socially-distanced groups as a practice of new mandatory safety procedures.
The CDC recommends regular hand-washing for everyone, but that is not always an easy task for construction workers who are constantly touching different surfaces. Companies that fail to follow simple social distancing guidelines, provide hand sanitizer and other PPE, and protect their workers from COVID-19 may open themselves up to liability for damages caused by contracting the virus.
Contact a Coronavirus Lawyer to Get the Legal Help You Need
If you have contracted COVID-19 or you have lost a vulnerable loved one to the infection as a result of exposure in one of the previously listed common clusters or another cluster, negligence may have played a role. Suffering from the illness of this virus can have economic consequences. Those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 can also suffer financially from a loss of household income, only compounding the emotional trauma of such a tragic loss.
Our legal team has advocated for clients with personal injury cases, and we are here to help fight for the compensation they deserve. You should not have to suffer financially because a negligent organization has failed to protect you. Contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today online, or at 833-552-7274, for a free consultation to discuss the ways COVID-19 has impacted you and your family.
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