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Her nursing home, she realized, was owned by the same company struggling to curtail a rising death toll in Kirkland, Washington. Mayberry began to dread what would happen if coronavirus swept through her building.

Soon after this discovery, her facility in Bellflower, California, instituted a lockdown in March, barring all visitors to try to keep the disease out. Mayberry spent her days alone in her room.

Before the pandemic, she passed the time watching hours of classic movies, but now, as the black and white films played in the background, she scoured the internet for news about what was happening in the outside world.

At first, few local governments released information about how Covid-19 was ravaging the vulnerable populations residing in nursing homes. But as data started coming out, Mayberry saw that the deaths in other facilities were skyrocketing.

And then, in mid-April, she said she learned from staff that a resident somewhere in the building had tested positive for the disease.

Since the early days of the pandemic, nursing homes have been hit particularly hard — grappling with
supply shortages and accounting for tens of thousands of deaths. But it is difficult to know what is actually happening inside these facilities, as measures aimed at protecting residents from the spread of the disease have left them even more vulnerable and closed off from the public.
They have been locked away from friends and family, routine government
inspections have been severely limited due to the virus and some employees
fear retaliation for raising concerns. It is even more rare to hear from the residents themselves — since many suffer from dementia and other debilitating conditions or don’t have an outlet to share their stories.

Mayberry, now 66, said she felt that local government officials weren’t doing enough to protect residents in nursing homes. She knew many of her fellow residents didn’t have the ability to speak out. But she had an iPad and a Twitter account, so she began sending dispatches from the inside of her room and hoped that someone would see them.

“As a nursing home resident, I feel as though I am in #DeathCamp2020 and we just got our first #COVID19 case 2 days ago,” she wrote on April 12. “No testing for staff or patients. Please help us.”

***

Mayberry has been sharing her experience as a resident at Bel Tooren Villa Convalescent Hospital through Twitter. Mayberry has been sharing her experience as a resident at Bel Tooren Villa Convalescent Hospital through Twitter.

Mayberry never envisioned spending the early years of her retirement in a nursing home.

She had a nearly 40-year career at a local school district working as a computer technician and retired in 2015, only to develop a dangerous skin infection, she said. Then, she said she suffered a broken leg and shattered ankle from a fall during her recovery. The injuries ultimately left her bedridden as she attempted to find a way to pay for the surgery she would need. She was single with no kids, and her brother lived hundreds of miles away in Oregon. Because she needed full-time care, Mayberry resorted to becoming a paying patient at the nursing home, Bel Tooren Villa Convalescent Hospital, owned by the national chain Life Care Centers of America.

She had a surgery scheduled for the end of March that she hoped would finally enable her to move back into the home she owns in Long Beach, only around 15 minutes from her facility.

But then, coronavirus hit.

Mayberry has always been outspoken. In earlier years, she wrote letters to the editor of her local newspaper, opposing the renaming of her childhood park and criticizing the “stock” obituary of a local woman and classic film actress, saying she deserved much better. And she was already active on Twitter before the pandemic, criticizing President Donald Trump and sharing her love of old cinema with her modest list of 200-something followers, which includes a small stable of movie buffs.

Linda MayberryLinda Mayberry

The official Twitter account for the Los Angeles City Attorney became a follower more recently, after Mayberry saw a tweet about a price gouging investigation and responded with a photo of the same bottle of hand sanitizer being sold for $80 that still had its $1.99 price tag.

Now, as she learned from several of the nurses taking care of her that a growing number of employees and fellow residents were also testing positive for the virus, she said she made it her mission to draw attention to people like her, who are stuck in nursing homes where the coronavirus is spreading.

In some cases, she replied directly to tweets from government officials and journalists. In others, she simply offered dispatches of what her life was like, detailing the outrage and frustration she was feeling. She didn’t know if anyone was seeing them, but it made her feel like she was doing something.

“I could scream to the four walls here, but they don’t listen very well,” she said.

Mayberry tweeted about how she spent weeks asking to be tested — and how it finally happened last month.

A nurse showed up in her room in protective gear several days after her 66th birthday to deliver the news. She was positive for the virus and needed to be moved to the isolation unit — which Mayberry described as starting with a hallway of the facility blocked off by a thick layer of plastic that hung from the ceiling to floor but growing to take over a large part of the building.

A snapshot from inside Mayberry's room in the facility's makeshift isolation unit.A snapshot from inside Mayberry's room in the facility's makeshift isolation unit.

“Keeping the sick here and not testing the staff was a recipe for disaster,” she told CNN in late May. “I am really pissed off. This didn’t have to happen.”

When staff at her nursing home discovered that she had been publicly voicing concerns about the situation, she said she was “grilled by a corporate bigwig.” A Life Care spokesman told CNN that residents are free to speak with reporters and that it would never punish someone for doing so. The company will speak to residents concerned about their care to try to resolve any issues, he added. Mayberry said she told them her anger was mainly directed at the Department of Public Health in Los Angeles County, where her facility is located, for failing to ensure that all employees were tested for coronavirus until recently.

The first positive case had been confirmed well into the facility’s lockdown so Mayberry was convinced that a staff member had unknowingly brought it to the facility. And as they went room to room treating patients like her, she worried they continued to spread it.

The spokesman for Life Care said it was first notified of a positive case at Bel Tooren on April 10 and acknowledged that “testing has been constrained, and has taken longer than we’d have liked” — noting that testing for the facility has been coordinated through the county health department.

“They have made the decisions on when and who will be tested in our facility,” he said. “Our preference would have been to test both residents and staff sooner.”

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it has been working to support testing of both residents and staff at county nursing homes and that not all have completed this testing. A spokesman said the county will audit facilities to make sure they are complying with new state testing requirements, and said earlier this week that Bel Tooren is “still under investigation.”

***

At first, the only personal possessions that were brought to the makeshift isolation unit for her were her iPad and iPhone. Her new room still had the belongings of someone else, she said, including fake flowers and a dresser full of items that she was afraid to touch.

She said her temperature became slightly elevated and she noticed that her oxygen levels were lower than usual when she checked them herself using a pulse oximeter, but otherwise she said she was mainly asymptomatic.

Soon after receiving her diagnosis, she began railing against people she believed were being irresponsible and spreading the virus, using the hashtag #Covidiots.

According to Mayberry, she wasn’t given a shower in more than a month, and that was the last day she was helped out of bed until recently. She was given a “bed bath” in mid-May, but claims that was only because she requested it for her birthday.

“It’s been a little bit uncomfortable, but I understand they’re just really, really shorthanded,” she said, adding that many of the nurses have become like family to her. “You feel sort of guilty that they’re giving up so much to work here … this isn’t a job I would wish on anyone and they do it with kindness.”

Signs in the windows of Bel Tooren express gratitude for nursing home employees during the pandemic.Signs in the windows of Bel Tooren express gratitude for nursing home employees during the pandemic.

After CNN contacted the facility spokesman for comment, Mayberry said she was retested and given a shower and moved from isolation — suggesting that her test result came back negative for coronavirus this time.

Her biggest fear is that employees — some of whom she said are older than she is — will stop coming to work entirely, as she has read about happening at other nursing homes.

“I am afraid that I am going to be ignored to death here,” she said.

The Life Care spokesman said he could not comment on specific patients due to privacy laws, but that “normal routines for patient care have been adjusted, particularly for those patients who have tested positive.” He said the facility is starting to see residents recover from the virus, and that when someone is listed as recovered, they are moved into a new wing of the nursing home — apart from those residents who are positive or negative.

He said that for the safety of staff, and since many rooms do not have private showers, some residents are given sponge baths two to three times per week.

“We recognize this has been a difficult time for residents, their families, and our staff,” he said. “Our staff have endured much and are truly heroic for their efforts to stay and care for their patients, even while they are at risk for contracting the virus.”

Other than the bits of information she is able to glean from her caregivers, she said residents are not given any detailed updates on Covid-19 cases, so she regularly checks the data posted by the state to try to find out what is happening in her own building.

More than 50 residents at Bel Tooren have contracted coronavirus. More than 50 residents at Bel Tooren have contracted coronavirus.

Before she was moved to isolation, and then to a different room, she was able to listen for sirens, knowing that an ambulance would likely be called if someone had died. But lately she said she has been too far away to hear anything.

As of May 29, Bel Tooren Villa Convalescent Hospital has reported 61 resident cases and 16 staff cases, according to the facility.

Twelve of Mayberry’s fellow residents have died.

Do you have anything to share about Covid-19 in nursing homes? Is there something else you think we should investigate? Email us: watchdog@cnn.com.

The Trump family is extremely online today, and they’re all over the place with their messaging. 

On Friday morning, Twitter hid another one of Donald Trump’s tweets and slapped a warning label on it. Trump’s statement about the protests over the death of George Floyd — which included the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — violated the site’s rules about glorifying violence, and many horrified users agreed. (For background, that phrase was first spoken in 1967 by Miami police chief, Walter Headley, when explaining that his force “didn’t mind being accused of police brutality.”)

This is part of an ongoing fight between the social media platforms and the president, who yesterday signed an executive order intended to intimidate these companies against getting in the way of him spreading (often false) information to his followers.

After Twitter took action against Trump’s tweet on Friday morning, the official White House Twitter account re-tweeted the president’s words. (Twitter eventually censored that tweet as well.) But as Trump’s unpresidential, divisive messages came under fire, his family members logged on and tried to do their best to clean up his mess.

Trump's family tries to clean up his mess by tweeting wildly inconsistent calls for peace

Image: screenshot / twitter

It’s rare to see the majority of the Trump family commenting online at the same time, but on Friday Melania, Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr., Eric, and even Lara shared their thoughts on the chaos that’s unfolding in Minnesota and Twitter’s actions against the president.

The tweets, however, all carried fairly inconsistent messages.

Melania called for peace and offered her deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family. She also asked that we focus on “peace, prayers & healing” as a nation, which directly contradicts her husband’s call to send the National Guard to Minnesota and use violence if necessary to get the situation under control.

Ivanka chose not to address the protests at all. She simply said the people in Minneapolis “are hurting for a reason” and that her heart goes out to Floyd’s family and all hurting Americans.

 “Justice is how we heal,” she wrote — providing a stark contrast in tone to her father’s tweets.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr., spent much of the morning trying to disparage Joe Biden, Ilhan Omar, and Jack Dorsey. But he did take some time to address the protests.

Eric Trump also took shots at Joe Biden and came for Twitter on Friday morning, and Lara Trump said that although a murder was committed, other crimes are now also taking place in Minnesota. 

It’s really striking to see that Trump and several of his family members seem more concerned with taking down Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that dealing with the devastating events in Minneapolis, a deadly pandemic, and an unfolding economic crisis. But the president seems to be leaning in.

Since the social platform fact-checked one of Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots earlier this week, he’s been firing off unhinged rants and accusing Twitter of trying to stifle free speech.

Even today, as the people continue to mourn the loss of George Floyd and plead for justice, Trump is bashing Twitter on Twitter. So is the White House account.

In times of deep sorrow and nationwide distress, this is not what a president’s Twitter account should look like. Americans should be able to count on the president and those associated with the White House to — at the very least — not further divide the nation or incite violence.

Chinese state news outlet Xinhua has introduced a new social media character in an effort to counter criticism of China in English-language media during the coronavirus pandemic. The cartoon character is called Terry-cotta, who explains that using face masks during a pandemic is good, that China isn’t hoarding PPE, and that Americans are very thankful for China’s donations of medical supplies.

The new character appears in an animated video that’s made to look like a Periscope livestream, complete with comments by viewers and little hearts fluttering to denote approval of the message being conveyed. The name Terry-cotta is a play on the Chinese terracotta warrior sculptures that date from the third century BCE.

“I don’t like masks either, but you know, with the virus out there, we better be cautious,” Terry-cotta says in a new YouTube video responding to an imaginary comment about masks being “stupid.”

Another segment of the new video shows Terry-cotta addressing complaints that masks which have been shipped out of China in recent months were defective, a huge scandal in Spain, which has been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with over 236,000 covid-19 infections and more than 27,000 deaths.

“Hola from Spain,” the imaginary Periscope comment reads. “Some of our hospitals complain your exported masks of poor quality. They could not protect medicos.”

Terry-cotta sets the record straight, from the Chinese government’s perspective, insisting that the masks were never intended to be N95 quality. Instead, Terry-cotta insists, those masks were lower quality for everyday use on the street and shouldn’t have been ordered by a hospital.

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“Actually, what masks this company exported to Spain were masks for daily protection,” Terry-cotta says. “They are not up to the protective level of surgical masks, not to mention N95. Cases like this also happened in the Netherlands. Doctors and nurses, please ask your admin guys to get you the right kind of masks.”

In reality, it’s not just the Netherlands and Spain which have complained of faulty masks from China. Finland, India, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Canada have also imported faulty masks from Chinese distributors. Many of the faulty masks were supposedly N95 quality, according to Canadian news outlets, and China’s medical device regulators have reportedly cracked down on exports of faulty PPE.

Terry-cotta also addresses questions about the “hoarding” of PPE, which the cartoon character denies by pointing out how much China is exporting at the moment. Terry-cotta also urges people who say tests kits made in China are faulty to “please follow instructions,” suggesting that medical professionals in other countries don’t know what they’re doing.

A fictional Periscope commenter called “GunGene” writes, “don’t buy anything from Terry. There are viruses on his stuff.” The comment echoes xenophobic and racist sentiments in many western countries against people of Asian descent. The name GunGene is clearly a nod to lax U.S. policies on firearms.

“You can say whatever you like,” Terry-cotta responds to GunGene, chuckling. “You’re welcome to stay away from our masks. Like going out into a crowd, and stay away from our ventilators if you’re hospitalized.”

The video ends with an imaginary commenter from Oregon thanking China for a donation of medical supplies. The comment is based on the actual donation of 50,000 masks from Fujian Province to the state of Oregon last month.

“Terry, I’m here to thank you for your donation of masks,” says Andrew in a Periscope-like comment. “I am from Oregon State Emergency Management Office. We received a batch of masks donated by Fujian Province and gave them to people fighting against COVID19 across the state.”

“Well, thank you, Andrew. Good to know that our donations helped,” Terry-cotta says. “Please, do take care there, buddy.”

The governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, tweeted about the donation on April 28, thanking “Oregon’s sister state in China,” insisting that the state would “pay it forward” in the future.

Notably, YouTube is banned in China, so the audience for this video is the English-speaking world, with a clear emphasis on the United States. The animation is just one of many new videos released by Chinese state media over the past few months that seeks to change the narrative about China’s role in the pandemic. American politicians like President Donald Trump have insisted that China should be punished for the pandemic under the theory that it didn’t do enough to stop the outbreak which originated in Wuhan.

The effort by Chinese state media is clearly an attempt to sway American opinion and ironically takes a page out of the American playbook of exerting soft power through popular media channels. In the 20th century, the U.S. dominated the world as much through popular media like movies and TV as it did through physical force and guns—though there was plenty of the latter, to be sure.

Now it appears to be China’s turn to exert that same soft power in the 21st century, using new tools like YouTube, Facebook, and Periscope to get its message out during the New Cold War, even if those same platforms are banned in China. Terry-cotta may or may not take off as a popular media figure, but the idea behind Terry-cotta is going to be with us for a long time.

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