With families on the outside, it’s certified nursing assistants like Shelly Hughes who must reassure nursing home residents in person.

“One of the more difficult things to deal with is how afraid our residents are,” she said. “A lot of people just sit and watch the news all day, and you know, they’re very concerned.”

She said some family members typically visit daily and help feed their relatives at meal times, so the staff lacks that support now as well.

Hughes works at a skilled nursing facility in Bellingham. She said gowns and masks are now kept locked up, and they have restrictions on working at more than one facility – they must have a two-day separation between different workplaces.

Or they can “choose” one facility and seek more shifts there.

Hughes said her workplace has not had any coronavirus cases yet, and staff members are trained in infection control, but of course they’re worried too.

“None of us want to get sick and take it home to our families, and none of us want to get sick and bring it into our facility,” she said.

Hughes says conditions in her field were dire before the outbreak, but now they’re in the public eye.

“Direct caregivers and just a lot of people in nursing homes aren’t making a lot of money, they don’t have affordable healthcare, they work multiple jobs. It’s hard to miss days if you don’t have sick time. And it’s created this situation that we’re finding ourselves in.”

She calls the cluster of deaths at the LifeCare nursing home in Kirkland “heartbreaking,” and said she hopes some future good can come of the scrutiny they’re receiving.

Read more at KUOW.