California to move seniors to Navy ship to cope with nursing home infections

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By Andrew Sheeler The Sacramento Bee, April 10, 2020

The U.S. Navy Ship Mercy will take on senior nursing home patients that have not tested positive for coronavirus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

The Navy ship will lend assistance “specific to the challenges within our nursing facilities and nursing homes,” Newsom said in his Friday noon press conference.

In addition, Newsom said that the state has identified seven specific sites around California “that allow us hundreds and hundreds of beds” outside of the Mercy for nursing home patients in need of them.

Newsom stressed that the Mercy would only be taking patients that have not tested positive for COVID-19.

The Democratic governor nursing homes currently are a major focus of his administration. Of the 1,224 skilled nursing facilities in the state, 191 are being monitored because either patients or staff have tested positive. Newsom said that 1,266 such people have tested positive in California nursing homes so far.

That’s not the whole picture though, he said.

In addition, California has an additional 7,461 licensed facilities, 94 of which are being monitored after 370 patients or staff tested positive.

Newsom said the state already had been bracing for a “golden wave” of patients as California’s population ages.

“I just want folks to know that we have short-term strategies, but we also have a longer-term vision that is being prepared and advanced at the same time,” he said.

The governor also announced on Friday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is partnering with California and restaurants around the state to deliver three nutritious meals a day to seniors across the state.

“Meals on Wheels alone can’t do what is required to protect and meet the needs of our seniors,” Newsom said.

Meals on Wheels delivers 50,000 meals a day, which Newsom called an “extraordinary number,” but he said there are “well over a million people” statewide who cannot prepare their own meals.

“Many with their mobility issues, many simply unable to fend for themselves,” he said.

The governor said the program will be limited to those seniors exposed to, or who have tested positive for, COVID-19, “and/or simply cannot get the support of Meals on Wheels or even get the kind of support they need from traditional social safety net programs like food stamps.”