Nursing homes in Washington state struggled with adequate staffing for years. Then coronavirus struck.

In early March, state inspectors entered a sprawling nursing home in the rural southeast corner of King County where concerns over thin staffing were mounting just as COVID-19 began to spread across the state.

One resident inside the Enumclaw Health and Rehabilitation Center said she hadn’t been bathed for nearly three weeks after she first arrived, according to inspection records. Another described waiting roughly 15 minutes for help after her roommate fell on the floor, while others told of even longer waits for help, lasting 45 minutes or more.

“Sometimes there are so few people in the building,” the resident told inspectors, “if there were an emergency, it would be a calamity.”

Within weeks, coronavirus entered the nursing home, and workers scrambled to help ailing residents, as some got sick themselves. In all, the outbreak killed 26 people, according to the state.

As COVID-19 devastated nursing homes across the state,

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