Kirkland, Washington (CNN)The veteran registered nurse started her own mental checklist: cough, rapid breathing and the red eyes — all the sickest patients seemed to have the red eyes.
For Chelsey Earnest it was the eyes that became the single most important sign as she and other staff at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, struggled with the new coronavirus that was sweeping the nursing home even before it became feared across the country. Chelsey Earnest says she has never experienced anything like the outbreak in Kirkland in 20 years as a registered nurse.
"It’s something that I witnessed in all of them (the patients). They have, like … allergy eyes. The white part of the eye is not red. It’s more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes," Earnest said.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology sent an alert to its members Sunday evening that there are reports Covid-19 can lead to conjunctivitis — which can lead to a reddening of and around the eyes. It warned ophthalmologists to protect their mouth, nose and eyes when seeing patients who could be infected. Eye issues are not on the list of symptoms being circulated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stresses a high fever, dry cough and shortness of breath, though the list is not all-inclusive.
Earnest tracked those symptoms, too. But for her and her colleagues at the Life Care Center and admitting doctors at a nearby hospital, the eyes became a sign that coronavirus had struck, she told CNN.
"We’ve had patients that just had the red eyes as the only symptom that […]