Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
When Linda Ogren needed rehabilitation in January after a surgery to address an infection in her legs, Andrea Donovan chose the Augusta Center for Health and Rehabilitation for her mother over another facility in the area.
Then, in mid-April, the Augusta center became the site of the state’s largest coronavirus outbreak to date.
Ogren, 72, of Benton initially was in the minority of residents who tested negative for the virus. But on Sunday, she died at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta after testing positive.
“I feel like I failed my mom because I put her in the wrong nursing home,” Donovan said. “This facility is responsible for so much sadness for this family for not protecting their residents.”
Ogren’s death after initially testing negative for COVID-19 highlights how the coronavirus can keep spreading through a nursing home where older residents with underlying health conditions live in close quarters. Maine has so far seen coronavirus outbreaks in seven long-term care homes, and more than half of the state’s coronavirus deaths have been nursing home residents.
At the Augusta Center for Health and Rehabilitation, 48 residents — more than three-quarters — and 28 staff members had tested positive as of Tuesday, for a total of 76 cases. Seven residents had died, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Donovan and her sister, Stephanie LaPointe, started dealing with the nursing home about a month ago, when they pushed for their mother to be tested after hearing about the first few coronavirus cases at the facility through news reports, which started coming out on April 10.
Since then, they have consistently had trouble getting updates on their mother’s health. Donovan and LaPointe often relied on the state’s long-term care ombudsman’s office to get phone calls returned. Their pleas for information from the facility came before both the federal and state governments started requiring nursing homes to inform residents and their families of positive coronavirus cases and their plans for addressing them.
After Ogren tested negative in the first round of testing at the rehab center, Donovan said it took days for her to be moved out of her old room, which she shared with a woman who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
About a week after she was moved to a new wing for residents who had tested negative, staff members assigned to that wing developed coronavirus symptoms. They were retested and tested positive. The facility said it would only retest patients who had been exposed to those staff members if they developed symptoms. Since Ogren did not have any symptoms at that time, she was not retested.
A representative of the Augusta center’s parent company, National Health Care Associates, did not respond to requests for comment on Ogren’s situation. But the company earlier confirmed to the BDN that staff members assigned to the facility’s coronavirus-negative wing had tested positive and that only residents with symptoms would be retested. A Maine CDC spokesman said repeat testing of residents, especially for those who develop symptoms, would be a typical part of a response to an outbreak.
A day or two later, Ogren started feeling confused, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed as one of the COVID-19 symptoms warranting emergency medical attention.
She believed she was in a medical facility in Rhode Island, where Ogren and her husband had spent much of their lives before moving to Maine, Donovan said.
Yet, the facility still did not retest Ogren for the coronavirus, Donovan said, even after she asked for a test for her mother.
Last week on Monday, April 27, Ogren fell and injured her hip. She developed a fever shortly thereafter, Donovan said.
When Donovan, who lives in Chelsea, found out she rushed to the facility to meet her mother before she got into an ambulance to be taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center.
“We rushed over there thinking this is going to be the last time we’ll ever see our mother, because I was convinced she had COVID,” Donovan said. “She hadn’t been tested at this point.”
The next day, Donovan learned that her mother tested positive for the coronavirus at MaineGeneral, and would need surgery for her broken hip.
Her surgery went well, and Donovan talked to her mother, who was getting better, every day after that. On Thursday, Ogren could get up. On Friday, she started walking again, Donovan said. She sounded better than she had in months.
“We thought that she’s one of those people that are just going to be positive but she doesn’t really have symptoms,” Dononvan said. “And then Friday night, we got a call that she started to have some fluid buildup in her lungs. They might have to take her up to critical care.”
Within 48 hours, Ogren had died, Donovan said. She also had congestive heart failure, which might have played a role in her quickly declining condition.
Ogren first moved to Maine from Rhode Island in 1973 with her husband, Roger Ogren, and their three kids. She liked to pursue creative hobbies, such as knitting, crafts and baking, Donovan said.
When she discovered a love for scrapbooking, she made all her children handcrafted recipe books.
During her stay at MaineGeneral in January, Ogren sent knitted hats to her friends and family, but also gave them to her caregivers at the hospital, Donovan said.
When coronavirus first hit Maine, Donovan said her family never thought it would affect them.
Now, she can’t turn the TV on because all the news and advertisements mention COVID-19.
“When you see people that don’t want to wear masks are protesting, they obviously haven’t lost loved ones because they wouldn’t,” she said.
Donovan thinks her mother leaving the nursing home gave her a few good days last week when she was at the hospital feeling better.
“I will never be convinced that this nursing home didn’t fail those people,” she said.
“It’s going to haunt me forever that we didn’t get her out of there in time.”
Watch: Should you remove loved ones from care facilities during the outbreak?