The New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton is experiencing one of the deadliest outbreaks of COVID-19 in the state. As of December 15th, 35 veterans there have died since November 10th.
Many more are infected, and staff who have been exposed are quarantining to prevent further spread of the virus.
For more on what it's like for residents of the Veterans Home and their families, NHPR's Peter Biello spoke with Paula Carnes of Dalton. Her father, Paul Tilden, will turn 97 this month. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Carnes says her father is fairly healthy right now.
Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity
How long has it been since you've seen your father in person?
I just got to video chat with him this morning, so I'm like, 'Yay!' The staff there is phenomenal. We do video chat, either Facebook, Zoom, whatever is available to the family. So I just did it on Facebook. It's just easier.
So you haven't seen him in person since before the pandemic began?
I got to see him through a glass window and we actually did that for his fiftieth wedding anniversary, which was in September.
If he celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary, his wife is still alive?
His second wife, yes.
So not your mother.
What's that like for her?
It's very hard. Matter of fact, she couldn't get a hold of him the other day. And she said, 'You know those people over there better than I do. Help me.' And I say, okay, let me see what dad's doing with his phone. Sometimes he doesn't hear it and she gets concerned, so she calls me. I have to straighten everybody out. That's what you get for being the oldest, right?
Oh, so you're the oldest, so you're in charge. I am too, so I know what that's like.
So tell us about how the New Hampshire Veterans Home has worked with you, trying to stay connected with your dad?
Oh my god, they're absolutely amazing. From the time this first got started, which was back in March, March the 16th, when the governor declared a state of emergency...what they did was, they would allow us, once we got passed the initial steps, we were allowed visits through video or you could do it through the glass one way or another. We had to do what we had to do to protect them as much as possible.
And what has communication from the Veterans Home been like since November 10th, when Covid-19 arrived?
They have a program. It's weekly video and phone updates with families, which is really pretty cool. I can call the nurse's station at any time. I can call his social worker any time, night, day, doesn't make any difference, and someone's there to answer the phones and give whatever answer I need. For example, the other day, I couldn't reach my dad and I was concerned about him, so I called. It was in the evening. Even the charge nurse called me back. If they're not there, they call you back within a matter of minutes. It's been amazing.
And what about your father's physical set-up there. Is he sufficiently isolated, in your view, to prevent being exposed to this virus?
I believe he is. I mean, all of the staff wears their PPE. They've really done a lot. I took my dad up another phone and I know they had to decontaminate it and I did it, too, even though I didn't think it was [contaminated], I just sprayed everything down with a disinfectant when I picked the other phone up from my dad, just to protect myself.
What would you like people to know about how the New Hampshire Veterans Home is operating?
That they have been phenomenal at keeping everything at bay. I have no fears for my dad whatsoever. I know that they're doing the very, very best that they can.