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Assisted living facility faces felony charges over deadly COVID-19 outbreak

By Meredith Deliso,

2023-03-14

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Los Angeles prosecutors announced felony charges Tuesday in connection with a deadly COVID-19 outbreak that occurred at an upscale assisted living facility early in the pandemic.

The charges, which include felony elder endangerment, follow a two-and-a-half-year investigation into the outbreak at the Silverado Senior Living Management facility, LA County District Attorney George Gascón said during a press briefing Tuesday.

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MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images - PHOTO: District Attorney George Gascon speaks during a news conference outside the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles, Jan 23, 2023.

Sixty residents and 45 employees at Silverado Beverly Place contracted COVID-19 in what Gascón called "one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19" in an assisted living facility in California. Thirteen residents and a nurse died, Gascón said.

The investigation began following the death of the staff member, identified as 32-year-old Brittany Ringo.

Prosecutors allege Silverado admitted a new resident on March 19, 2020, despite protocols at the time limiting outside visitors, including patients. The facility also allegedly failed to test the patient for COVID-19 or quarantine the patient for 14 days prior to admission, as required by health protocols, according to prosecutors. The new patient began showing COVID-19 symptoms a day after arrival and tested positive for the virus that evening, according to Gascón.

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Ringo was allegedly ordered to admit the new resident, who had come "directly to the facility from the airport" from a COVID-19 "hotspot" in New York City, Gascón said. She tested positive for COVID-19 on March 25, 2020, and died on April 20, 2020, according to the district attorney.

"We have evidence to support that the protocols were not followed due to financial considerations of accepting this patient from New York," Gascón said. "We believe that Silverado put the interests and financial gain in profit over the safety considerations for their patients and employees."

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Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images - PHOTO: People are seen at a COVID-19 testing center at the San Fernando regional park in Los Angeles County, Dec. 8, 2020.

Silverado Senior Living Management and three managers -- CEO Loren Shook, administrator Jason Russo and Kimberly Butrum, a vice president -- have been charged with 13 counts of felony elder endangerment and five felony counts of violation causing death in connection with the COVID-19 outbreak, prosecutors said. Arraignment was expected Tuesday.

Jeff Frum, Silverado senior vice president and spokesman, told ABC News in a statement that it denies all charges.

"Silverado's top priority is and always has been providing world-class care, respect and dignity to people living with dementia and a caring environment for our associates. We deny all charges filed against us -- they are baseless and egregiously contradict the facts. We look forward to presenting our case during the legal process," he said in the statement.

"We will always grieve the loss of the residents to the pandemic and the frontline hero who cared for them," Frum continued. "We have taken the pandemic extremely seriously since the start. We recognized COVID-19's unprecedented threat to society, particularly for people living with dementia and their caregivers. Silverado was a leader in developing protocols for people living with dementia and many of these same protocols became standards for the entire memory care industry."

At the start of the outbreak, Silverado defended its actions in a statement to the Los Angeles Times .

"Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our residents and the associates who care for them each day, and we're proud of our team's dedication and professionalism during this pandemic," Frum told the paper in March 2020.

MORE: The winter COVID wave that wasn't: Why the US didn't see a surge

The facility specializes in caring for elderly residents with Alzheimer's and dementia, prosecutors said.

The case was treated as an industrial workplace accident, prosecutors said. The investigation, led by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, took over two years due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time and due to several employees leaving the facility, prosecutors said.

The charges follow a lawsuit against the facility filed late last year by relatives of several residents and the nurse who died.

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