Later, the story of the Life Care outbreak would be flattened by the ubiquitous metaphors of pandemic. People would say that COVID-19 hit like a bomb, or an earthquake, or a tidal wave. They would say it spread like wildfire. But inside the facility, it felt more like a spectral haunting. A nurse named Chelsey Earnest said that fighting COVID was like “chasing the devil.”

Since there were so few remaining staff members — by then, more than a third of Life Care’s staff had called out sick — some residents had not been showered or helped out of bed in days.

In the months that followed, the lawsuit against Life Care and the prospect of more lawsuits to come have divided Life Care residents and their families. In part, this is because the lawsuit speaks to a fundamental question: to blame or not to blame? To some, Debbie’s case is a greedy assault against the unluckiest nursing home in America. To others, a successful case against Life Care would be a fitting comeuppance for a facility that made terrible errors and whose errors, they argue, killed dozens of people — at least 46 people — who otherwise would not have died. And then there are those who think that, yes, blame should be assigned, but that it belongs with forces much larger than a single nursing home: with the county, with the state, with federal regulators, with the system. This is a debate about perspective: whether Life Care failed or was failed, or whether this was just the inevitable way of the virus.

Read more on California Sunday.