Warrick Coroner: County Health Officials need to be more visible

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NEWBURGH, Ind. (WEHT) – 81-year-old Valace Layman was a resident at Signature HealthCARE in Newburgh before she passed away last week as a result of COVID- 19.  

Her daughter, Donna Moschner, said the assisted living facility didn’t do enough to protect her mother. Moschner said she thinks her mom may have contracted the virus from a worker at Signature HealthCARE. 

“She had a heart of gold, she would do anything for you,” Moschner said. “The whole month of March, I was talking to her and she was fine. It had to be someone there working, because they were the ones feeding her and bathing her because she couldn’t even get up and walk.”

Nursing homes have been a hotbed for the virus.  Warrick County Coroner Sarah Seaton said the deaths at those facilities are taking its toll across the community.

“The staff in those facilities, they come to love those residents and view them as family and so I know this is very devastating for them and I know they are carrying a huge burden on their shoulders to try and keep those that aren’t sick and keep them safe and those that are sick to try and get them better,” Seaton said. 

Coroner Seaton said she believes the Warrick County Health Department needs to be more open about its 86 total cases and 15 deaths, including 13 deaths at nursing homes.

The county’s health department has been tight-lipped through much of the pandemic. 

Warrick County Health Administrator Aaron Franz has not responded to multiple requests from Eyewitness News for comment. 

Seaton said Warrick Health Officials need to be more visible.

“I think with the active cases and the number of deaths within Warrick County, I think a daily narrative or at least a weekly narrative would be a good thing,” Seaton said. “I think we are in a time where the more information we can give the public the better.”

Seaton said although everyone is anxious to re-open, what’s playing out in Warrick County’s long-term facilities showcases a broader trend.

“If we don’t continue distancing ourselves, than these nursing homes can look just like our homes,” she said. 

With more questions than answers, many families are trying to get through their pain, like Valace’s 13 grandkids who are left without their grandma.

“Not being able to see her was the worst, the last two weeks, not being able to see my mother or talk to her, hold her hand or anything and I was always doing that. She always looked forward to me coming down to the nursing home,” Moschner said. “She was there for you, and never complained about anything.”

Signature HealthCARE officials tell us the loss of any resident is devastating. 

A Signature HealthCARE spokeswoman provided Eyewitness News with the following statement regarding the ongoing outbreak at it’s Newburgh campus: 

“Signature HealthCARE was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Ms. Valace Layman. The loss of any of our residents, for any reason is devastating. Many of our patients are asymptomatic and can be transported to the hospital for unrelated complications or for regular appointments and needed care. It is easy to feel the need to pinpoint the cause of a positive case to one person, or a specific incident. But contact tracing is extremely difficult and currently, there are no accurate procedures to pinpoint a source in the tens-of thousands of cases in our nation, let alone at Signature HealthCARE of Newburgh.”

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(This story was originally published on April 27, 2020)

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