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New Mexico

Las Cruces woman loses mother to virus in veterans home, only to have father test positive in home twice

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico -- After grieving the loss of her mother, a Las Cruces woman is anxious about her father's safety in a Truth or Consequences state-operated home for veterans.

“I feel guilty for putting them in there," said Leslie Kelley. "I was scared about putting them in there, but my mom had just gotten to the point where we couldn’t handle her. Then my dad could not be without her.”

At 83 years old, Fran Anderson's Lewy Body Dementia grew unmanageable, so her family checked her into the New Mexico State Veterans Home, according to her daughter.

"My dad could not stand to be away from her," Kelley said.

Amos Anderson, 88, insisted on living in the home with his wife, even though he didn't need the specialized care, his daughter told ABC-7. Staffers even brought in a bigger bed because Fran "insisted" on sleeping in the same bed as her husband.

However, the virus spread rapidly in the home, according to a state investigation. A report from late 2020 found the home violated Covid-19 safety rules, leading to 36 deaths across the facility.

“Thanksgiving, it was my biggest fear," Kelley recalled. "The veterans' home called me and they said my mom had a slight fever and she tested positive for Covid.” 

Amos recovered from the virus, but Fran died by her husband's side.

"My brother and my niece were able to video chat with her the day before she died, but they canceled my appointment," Kelley recalled. "So I didn’t get to see her at all.”

While grieving the loss of her mother, Kelley told ABC-7 she received a call Thursday night that her father had contracted Covid-19 again at the home and was being placed in quarantine.

“I said, 'He’s had the vaccines right?" Kelley asked the staffer who told her. “She said, 'Yes, he’s doing fine.'”

A spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health could not comment on this case specifically, but he said in general, people who test positive for Covid-19 may test positive again even after being vaccinated because they may shed viral RNA.

Kelley showed multiple copies of letters she received detailing positive Covid-19 cases, but she said it's difficult to get through to the home. She purchased a cell phone for her father.

A state spokesman wrote that the New Mexico Department of Health has "put in place a wide range of measures to control infection and care for residents." He said that loved ones can still contact the home to get in touch with residents.

Kelley remains worried about her father.

"It seemed like they were doing a pretty good job at the beginning," she said. "Then, around October is when I started hearing that Covid was running rampant."

Military / News / Video

Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend evening newscasts.

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