Families anxious, concerned as COVID-19 cases rise at RI Veterans Home

After a weekend of testing at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol following the home's first positive case of COVID-19, more residents and staff have tested positive for the virus.

BRISTOL, R.I. (WLNE) – After a weekend of testing at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol following the home’s first positive case of COVID-19, more residents and staff have tested positive for the virus.

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services said Monday that 11 additional residents tested positive, along with two staff members. The Veterans Home saw its first positive case on Friday, and that resident is being treated at the VA Hospital in Providence.

The Veterans Home along with the Department of Health and the Rhode Island National Guard tested all residents and many staff members over the weekend. The remaining staff members were tested throughout the day Monday.

OHHS spokesman David Levesque said in an email that the resident on Friday did display symptoms of COVID-19, but the additional 11 residents did not.

Levesque said those who tested positive have been isolated, and family members were notified Monday.

“I’m really surprised that the Veterans Home has kept it at bay this long.”

Kim Timpson of North Kingstown spent Monday waiting by the phone for her father Edward’s test results.

She said, while it seemed inevitable that COVID-19 would make its way inside the home, she’s grateful to the staff for their work at keeping it out this long.

Timpson said she’s anxious knowing that she can’t do anything to help.

“The anxiety, I think it’s because there’s nothing we can do. There’s absolutely nothing in the whole wide world that we can do.”

Chairman of the Veterans Home Family Council, Donna St. Angelo, feels the same way. Her 93-year-old father is also a resident at the home.

“He loves it there. He was in the old home as well as the new home. I am so thankful that they designed the building the way that they did because I think it’s gonna keep the majority of our veterans safe,” said St. Angelo, who, before the pandemic, didn’t like the spread-out design of the home.

St. Angelo was also waiting for a phone call from the Veterans Home Monday.

“I’m really anxious to be able to get that phone call and tell me whether my dad’s positive or negative.”

She said the family council meets once a month, but since the pandemic, they’ve been keeping in touch in other ways. The home is split into six cottages, and many family members have grouped themselves together to be their own support systems. The Veterans Home has temporarily suspended video chatting with residents, while they await the results of staff members.

“I think it’s nervewracking to all of us, but several of us have either an email group or a text group that we keep in touch.”

While St. Angelo is worried about her own father, she also has to stay strong for the families, who fear what happened in Holyoke, Massachusetts, could happen in Bristol.

“I try to be that sounding board for them, to try to make them think in different ways so that they get out of their negatives modes but it’s tough. I’m trying to be the voice of reason in all the uncertainty.”

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News