Despite remaining sequestered inside their walls for more than eight months, almost totally isolated from family members and the outside world, residents of long-term care facilities across California now face another dangerous spread of the coronavirus in their midst.
By Thursday evening the number of active COVID-19 cases within skilled nursing facilities reached at least 1,543, more than double the number at the start of this month, according to data published by the state health department.
The surge comes after the number of new cases had largely been on the decline since August and mirrors what’s been happening during the same timeframe throughout most of California’s population.
Health care workers at the nursing facilities also are getting hit — 47 are currently infected with the virus, up from 13 at the beginning of the month.
The picture is just as alarming at assisted living centers, which as nonmedical facilities are regulated by the state Department of Social Services. The combined number of COVID-19 cases among patients and staff there reached 1,437 by Thursday.
Perhaps no group of California residents is more vulnerable to the virus.
The cumulative total of 61,088 cases in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities since the pandemic began is just a small portion of the 1.06 million cases statewide over the same period. But the number of patients and staff who have perished from COVID-19 accounts for 33% of California’s 18,466 coronavirus deaths to date.
Locally, one of the biggest recent outbreaks occurred at San Tomas Convalescent Hospital in San Jose, where 104 residents and 61 health care workers had tested positive for COVID-19, according to state data. By Friday, seven patients still had COVID-19 and one staff member was in isolation, according to a representative at the facility.
State data indicates 20 of San Tomas’ residents who recently had COVID-19 have died.
The facility posted a message on its website noting that its mitigation plan — based on public health guidance — includes isolating residents with COVID-19 and instructing sick employees to stay home.
The Atria Willow Glen assisted living facility in San Jose also had an outbreak in which 33 residents and employees tested positive for COVID-19 and one resident died, according to Atria’s regional vice president, Jason Walthour.
Such outbreaks were common early in the pandemic. Although they became rarer as the number of cases declined between August and November, the latest spike is stirring a new dread.
In a statement, Walthour noted that almost everyone who tested positive didn’t show COVID-19 symptoms, a reality that experts say underlines why regular testing must be a priority for residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Wearing personal protective equipment around residents and maintaining proper infection control practices is also crucial.
And while doctors, administrators and advocates agree that nursing homes are doing a better job of testing, maintaining protective equipment and controlling infections, there’s more room for improvement.
“I’m still not happy with where we are,” said Dr. Michael Wasserman, a geriatrician and former president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News