A NUMBER of residents at a Kendal care home are said to be among those whose deaths have been linked to coronavirus this week.

Yesterday afternoon, a total of 31 fatalities due to the disease had been confirmed by bosses at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Kendal’s Westmorland General Hospital. Across Cumbria, hospital trusts had confirmed 57 fatalities. Public Health England reported the total number of COVID-19 cases in Cumbria to be 512.

Among those also reported to have fallen victim to coronavirus in the county were a number of residents at Summerhill care home, East View, Kendal.

The Westmorland Gazette was contacted by a concerned member of staff who claimed there had been multiple deaths linked to COVID-19 (coronavirus) there in less than a week.

They also claimed that more than 30 members of staff were currently self-isolating because they were “showing symptoms, or on the recommendation of their doctor”.

The staff member said: “Staff are very worried but care so much for the residents. The pressure we are under is immense.

"We currently do have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) but face mask-stocks are running low.”

The son of a man in his 80's who died at the Summerhill care home on Tuesday shared an email with the Gazette from the home.

It said: “In regards to clearing your father’s room, we have residents that are symptomatic of COVID-19 living in Windermere Unit, our housekeeping will keep his possessions safe and I will let you know when it’s safe for you to come and collect.”

The man said he was called on Tuesday morning and notified that his father was unwell and had developed symptoms such as a cough and a fever.

The man said he went to visit his dad that day and had to wash his hands and put on gloves and a face mask before going in to see him. He added he also had to wash his hands on the way out.

His father, he said, was “basically unconscious” and “breathing heavily”.

He added the cause of death was not listed as coronavirus as his father was not tested, but said he was confident the virus was responsible.

He also added he had received information via a member of staff at another care home that there had been a number of other COVID-19-related deaths in the last week.

HC One, which runs the care home, was unable to comment on individual numbers of deaths at Summerhill.

However, a spokesman for the care home said: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our residents and colleagues are our first priorities. We have a comprehensive coronavirus contingency plan in place, which was created by our clinical director and reflects the latest government guidance.

“We have taken action to make sure we have the medical equipment, supplies, and number of colleagues required to provide safe and effective care to our residents now, and in the future.

"Our wellbeing team is working hard to keep residents active and engaged throughout this period, and to support them with video and telephone calls with their loved ones.

“We continue to work closely with our local health and care partners, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to make sure our residents and colleagues stay safe and well throughout these challenging times.”

The cases at Summerhill are among the many reports of people suffering from symptoms of coronavirus but not being tested, leading to fears that the death toll could be much greater than the figure currently recorded.

Colin Cox, Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “This current rate of positive COVID-19 cases in Cumbria appears high compared to the national average; however these figures need to be treated with caution.

“The figures do not represent the actual number of cases of COVID-19 in the county. Testing is still mainly being done in hospitals at the moment; but the majority of people with symptoms are not in hospital so are not being tested.

“The number of positive tests is therefore just a small proportion of the probable actual number of cases. This is the same across the whole country.”

He pointed out that factors such as population age, the number of coronavirus tests carried out per head, and the date of the first recorded COVID-19 test were also likely to impact the figures for Cumbria.