PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — As the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to mount at Brighton Gardens of Prairie Village, a corporate executive sent an email Thursday to reassure family members of residents.
According to the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, or JCDHE, there are now 83 COVID-19 cases associated with Brighton Gardens and 17 deaths as of Friday with the most recent onset of the virus coming Thursday.
Those numbers far exceed any other long-term care facility in Johnson County. Stratford Commons in Overland Park has the second-most cases at a Johnson County long-term care facility with 22.
Homestead of Olathe North has the second-highest number of deaths with five.
Of the roughly 150 long-term care facilities in Johnson County, the county health department currently lists seven facilities with active outbreaks. An outbreak is considered active if there's been a new case of the virus within 28 days, or two incubation periods.
Homestead's outbreak is nearing the end of an active designation. The last reported COVID-19 onset is listed as April 26, while Stratford Commons' last positive test was May 7.
Sunrise Senior Living Vice President of Operations Denise Falco sent a letter via email to the families of Brighton Gardens residents on Thursday, the day the county lists as the most recent COVID-19 positive test at Brighton Gardens.
"We have worked tirelessly to supply our team with the new tools and training necessary to continue providing quality care and support to our residents at a time when they are relegated to their rooms, unable to hug their children, see their families in person or dine with friends," Falco's letter read, in part.
Falco also praised Brighton Gardens staff: "They are each heroes and it is unfortunate they are having to confront the continued negative story-line questioning their efforts, particularly our executive director Lisa Barnes. We want you, our families, to know that behind the headlines is an intense commitment to provide compassionate, personalized care in the face of the unknown."
Sunrise Senior Living announced last week that Barnes "will transition from" her role as director by the end of May. Nursing Director Brooke Nickles will serve as interim director for Brighton Gardens.
Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of Johnson County's health department, issued a statement Friday, detailing ongoing efforts to help Brighton Gardens staff and saying the facility had made strides in containing the outbreak.
"JCDHE continues to work with Brighton Gardens to enhance infection control measures and processes and is testing the staff and residents on a regular basis who have tested negative," he said in a statement emailed to 41 Action News Investigators. "JCHDE has also arranged for geriatrician and infection control doctors to consult with the facility until this is resolved. Any time this type of infectious virus enters a setting like a long term care facility, it is difficult to eradicate it. Brighton Gardens has stepped up its efforts to control the spread of the disease."
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment intervened at Brighton Gardens earlier this month, and at least one family has already sued the facility.
Falco's letter to the families of residents Thursday was not the first time a corporate executive has reached out to family members.
Sunrise Senior Living Chief Executive Officer Chris Winkle sent a letter via email on May 12, in which he wrote about the "increased and significant costs" for personal protective equipment.
"We must fight to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) and receive support for testing, both critically important to combat this virus," Winkle wrote.
He wrote that support should come from the federal government.
"Join us in a collective effort to send thousands of letters to Congress," Winkle wrote.
He provided links to pre-written notes family members could personalize and send to their member of Congress as part of that effort.
Depending on the level of care, family members have told the 41 Action News Investigators the cost to stay in Brighton Gardens' assisted-living area ranges from $4,000 to $10,000 a month.
Sunrise has 325 senior living facilities nationwide, including Brighton Gardens.