Nursing homes going into lock down to protect elderly residents most at risk to COVID-19

While it's state health departments and CDC testing kits at the front lines of containing the coronavirus outbreak, it's elders and those with compromised immune systems who stand to lose the most if they're infected.

That's why nursing homes like the Shelby Health and Rehabilitation Center are taking extra precautions and measures in protecting their patients.

"It's sad that they have to shut it down but it's better - it's better for them and thank God they are doing it and taking precautions," said Lydia Dicesare, whose 87-year-old father Rocco is staying at the center.

Since the state's confirmation of coronavirus on Tuesday, nursing homes like the one Rocco lives in have shut down in-person access to visitors, limiting contact to phone calls.

"He just called and said 'hey, nobody can come visit me and we really have to wash our hands and goodbye,'" said Dicesare, chuckling.

This is the new reality for the 212 residents who are living under lockdown at the center. However, with more than 1,400 confirmed cases and 38 reported deaths nationwide, its elder care facilities that have the most to lose if COVID-19 finds its way inside.

In Seattle, the state health department reported one of the country's worst acute outbreaks of coronavirus cases as 11 nursing homes were hit by the virus. Almost every one of the 31 deaths reported in Washington originated in those locations.

"I'm glad they're taking the precautions. I'm just really worried, you know - their mental state about what's going on, not being able to see their loved ones," said Dicesare.

For Dicesare, who visits her dad four-to-five times a week, she was told it would be closed to visitors for two weeks.

However, administrators warn it could be even longer as they await more guidelines from the state and CDC.

"Just take it day by day and hopefully he keeps calling me," said Dicesare.