7 residents, 2 employees of Huntsville veterans home died in last 2 weeks; causes under review

The State VA said the process to confirm a coronavirus death can take more than two weeks from the time of the death, and it won't confirm any coronavirus death investigations.

Posted: Aug 28, 2020 5:50 PM
Updated: Aug 28, 2020 10:52 PM

The WAAY 31 I-TEAM confirmed, Friday morning that seven residents of the Floyd E. 'Tut' Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville have died in the last two weeks.

HMR Veterans Services, an outside group which oversees day-to-day operations at the home, said the Alabama Department of Public Health has not confirmed any of the deaths as COVID-related at this time.

Friday afternoon, the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs said four of the seven residents who died tested positive for coronavirus prior to their deaths. However, we don’t know when they tested positive or if their death is COVID-related. It could take ADPH two weeks to determine the cause of death.

A 'Tut' Fann employee told WAAY 31 on Thursday the number of people dying and what's going on inside the home is far different than what the state reported. 

The employee contacted the WAAY 31 I-TEAM after the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs announced 26 active coronavirus cases, but no coronavirus deaths. Earlier this week, a family told WAAY 31 their loved one tested positive for coronavirus before dying at Tut Fann. The State VA said its coronavirus numbers for Tut Fann will not reflect a death until it's confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

An employee who works at the home, and provided multiple forms of proof of their employment, also told us two employees recently died. HMR Veterans Services did confirm two employees passed away.

The State VA told us one employee who died tested positive for coronavirus about six weeks earlier, but the exact cause of death is not known at this time. The other employee had not had a positive COVID test at the time of their death, according to the State VA.

"Our prayers and support will continue to be provided to these team members and everyone in our community who has struggled with illness and loss during this crisis," HMR Veterans Services said in an email to WAAY 31.

We also asked the company questions about how it's keeping staff safe, after an employee told us CDC regulations and Alabama Department of Public Health Guidelines were not being followed. The company told us staff have been directed to use one of the two alternate routes to access certain areas of the home unless they have a reason to enter the designated COVID positive area.

"There is a breezeway entrance from outside beyond the COVID unit that leads directly to the entrance of the Memory Care unit. The facility has placed a temporary barrier between that breezeway and the end of the COVID unit to create a separate space. All staff needing to provide care and services to our non-designated area have been instructed to use this entrance. There is also a direct route to the day room through the interior courtyard. Staff can also deliver supplies and services through this route. As the need for more or less space changes, we are able to alter these routes to maintain adequate separation," HMR Veterans Services said.

The company also told us it's conducting weekly universal testing of all staff and veterans and have been doing so for two weeks. Prior to that it was testing all staff and veterans every two weeks.

"The facility follows (The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) guidelines for return to work strategies. We follow the test-based approach, requiring all positive employees to quarantine for ten (10) days and have two negative tests after that 10 days in order to return to work. When a staff member presents with symptoms, they are immediately removed from duty, tested again, and required to quarantine until those results are back," the company said in an email to WAAY 31.

The company also told us it's requiring all staff to use PPE while in the facility, therefore minimizing any potential direct exposure of staff," it explained.

"That, paired with weekly Universal Testing, allows for staff to continue working even with positive cases in the facility. Frequent testing, timely results and immediate response has become our best tool in our efforts to identify, contain and better control exposure," HMR Veterans Services said.

The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs sent us this statement when we asked about the deaths:

"We have indeed learned much over the past five months. First, we have learned the continuing value of partnerships with other agencies such as the federal VA, Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama National Guard, Alabama Emergency Management Agency, the CDC, and local officials. We have been grateful for those partnerships and intend to keep them going strongly.

"Next, we have learned the value of taking immediate yet appropriate measures when a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic hits, such as restrictions on outside visitors, meticulous screening of residents and staff, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and other safe medical practices. While we completely understand that these precautions can cause inconveniences to our treasured residents, families, and staff, they have ultimately proven to be effective in a very tough situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our veteran residents and with the community as well during these challenging times. "

WAAY 31 asked the State VA and HMR Veterans Services if seven deaths in two weeks is abnormally high for the home. The VA said there’s no way to know without a formal study.

Stay with WAAY 31 for updates on this developing story.

Huntsville/Redstone
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 50°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 52°
Huntsville/Madison
Mostly Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 44°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 50°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 44°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 680847

Reported Deaths: 8355
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby757471115
Davidson70180656
Knox38327390
Hamilton34288326
Rutherford32907282
Unassigned22485127
Williamson21226138
Sumner18067229
Out of TN1593479
Wilson14327154
Montgomery14229148
Sullivan12473210
Washington11818191
Blount11784123
Maury10903123
Bradley1066290
Sevier10406108
Putnam9896136
Madison9031178
Robertson757085
Hamblen6910109
Anderson6723102
Greene6548108
Tipton616265
Gibson5594111
Coffee557281
Cumberland535272
Dickson532677
Bedford530386
Roane515078
Carter5074112
Lawrence506369
McMinn503273
Warren496253
Loudon490750
Dyer471582
Jefferson470575
Monroe452162
Hawkins441768
Franklin407958
Obion398978
Fayette391751
Rhea379156
Lincoln376144
Cocke341256
Marshall340336
Weakley338248
Cheatham333529
Henderson331656
Campbell319740
Giles319371
White308543
Hardeman307652
Carroll306159
Hardin296047
Lauderdale292831
Macon287050
Wayne260019
Henry259158
Overton251342
DeKalb241241
Haywood238545
McNairy236842
Smith230027
Trousdale228614
Marion226631
Scott223631
Hickman221734
Fentress212331
Grainger207235
Claiborne205522
Johnson201232
Morgan187114
Crockett180038
Bledsoe173210
Chester172237
Unicoi165943
Cannon156619
Lake154519
Decatur146426
Polk141817
Grundy139120
Union137721
Sequatchie135618
Humphreys132017
Benton131935
Lewis127220
Meigs113316
Stewart104320
Jackson103421
Perry94525
Clay93426
Houston93322
Moore7949
Pickett67419
Van Buren6567
Hancock4026

Community Events