Visalia nursing home reports 154 virus cases, 8 deaths

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Associated Press, April 16, 2020

VISALIA — A Northern California nursing home has 154 cases of the coronavirus and eight residents have died in one of the largest single outbreaks in the state, it was reported Wednesday.

The numbers reported by Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia, a town in the agricultural Central Valley, comprise nearly half of all the COVID-19 cases reported in Tulare County and more than half of the 15 deaths.

The nursing home reported 106 residents and 48 staff members tested positive for the virus. All patients and staff at the 176-bed facility are being tested and the facility is receiving staffing support from the county, the state and area hospitals, Redwood Springs administrator Anita Hubbard said.

“We’re grateful to our dedicated team whose service and sacrifices enable us to fight this pandemic,” she said.

Staffing the home with so many staff members sick is challenging but the county is prepared to evacuate the home only as an “absolute worst-case scenario,” Tim Lutz, director of the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency, told the Visalia Times Delta.

Tulare County health officials also reported Wednesday that another nursing home, Lindsay Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility in Lindsay, reported 11 residents with the virus.

County and state health officials are working with the home to make sure they are following infection control guidelines by keeping those with COVID-19 separated from residents who don’t have symptoms, said a county statement. No deaths had been reported.

Nursing homes are considered among the highest-risk places for coronavirus outbreaks because many residents are elderly, have existing health conditions and are in close contact.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, two more resident deaths were reported at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, for a total of 13. Nearly 70 residents and staff are infected.

The Alameda County District Attorney has launched a criminal investigation into patient deaths at the facility, which in the past has been cited by state regulators for lacking sufficient staff.

Under Alameda County guidelines that took effect Tuesday, licensed nursing and care facilities must take the temperatures of staff, contractors and other essential visitors before allowing them entry; cancel communal dining and make sure staff wear masks and residents don them when leaving their rooms.

Several other Bay Area care facilities also are tackling COVID-19 outbreaks.

Four people have died at Orinda Care Center in Orinda, which had more than 50 cases, and one person has died at the East Bay Post-Acute Healthcare Center in Castro Valley, which reported some 45 cases among residents and staff.

Nearly 60 virus cases were reported at Carlton Senior Living in Pleasant Hill in Contra Costa County.

In Santa Clara County, health officials said at least 300 patients and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at 24 long-term care facilities and there have been 15 deaths. The facilities weren’t identified.

Two residents of an independent living facility also died, the county said.

At least three deaths have occurred at a nursing home and an assisted living facility in San Mateo County, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

In Los Angeles County, the state’s largest, 133 people who had lived in nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities have died from the virus, or about a third of all deaths in the county, health officials said Wednesday.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would train and deploy 600 nurses to “support compliance with COVID-19 guidance” at the state’s nearly 8,700 skilled nursing and residential care facilities. Visits to the facilities already have been sharply restricted.

“Protecting California’s most vulnerable residents and the employees is a top priority — not only to protect public health but because it’s the right thing to do,” Newsom said. “Older Californians and those who are medically fragile are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19.”