Coronavirus cases spike in South Bay nursing homes as state rolls out new plan
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, unveiled new direction around nursing homes in the state Friday.

    Roughly 10 percent of the state’s coronavirus cases at nursing homes and long-term care facilities are in Santa Clara County, according to data released Friday.

    Throughout Santa Clara County, 164 workers and residents have tested positive at such facilities, including 114 residents and 50 staff members, according to Dr. Sarah Rudman, assistant health officer for the county.

    She declined to say which facilities had positive cases for privacy reasons, though cases have been reported at San Jose’s The Ridge Post-Acute Care and Canyon Springs Post-Acute Care, where one person has died, according to the Mercury News.

    By comparison, 1,636 cases have been reported at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state.

    Those numbers are significant because residents who live in such facilities are generally considered high-risk patients if they contract the fast-spreading virus. The coronavirus, which causes a sometimes deadly respiratory illness known as COVID-19, has a significantly higher mortality rate for seniors and those with existing health conditions, according to health officials.

    But county officials said Friday that every case at local nursing and care facilities had been investigated. New training and protocols to protect residents and workers have also been implemented.

    “For each facility where there’s any concern raised… we investigate the full range of their infection control practices and both patient and staff movement around the facility,” Rudman said.

    When the county becomes aware of a suspected infection, a specialized team is sent to evaluate the facility and its testing needs. To date, nearly everyone in the facilities where officials see a concerning influx of illnesses have been tested, officials said Friday.

    That aligns with an announcement Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said the state is prioritizing the health of elderly and at-risk Californians as officials rolled out new guidelines and initiatives to protect older residents and workers.

    Across the state, 1,266 people who live or work at 191 nursing homes and long-term care facilities in California have tested positive for COVID-19, Newsom said. Another 370 people at 94 smaller facilities licensed through the Department of Social Services have also tested positive for the contagious virus.

    While that may seem like a relatively small portion of the total 1,224 nursing homes and 7,461 licensed care facilities in California, infection hotspots had already emerged at some facilities, officials said.

    “We know that if we do not continue to be vigilant and focused on protecting the residents and the staff in those institutions, that we may actually see an upward tick in this curve, a number of very vulnerable people who become sick and need to be hospitalized and begin to challenge our current surge capacity,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary, said Friday during a news conference.

    To that end, the state has convened a taskforce of infectious disease control experts who are working with the CDC and other agencies to address concerns around nursing homes and other facilities. In addition, 600 nurses have been retrained with new COVID-19 protocols and are being sent to nursing homes across California to ensure they’re using best practices to combat the contagious virus.

    California is also prioritizing getting tests to the facilities as well as personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and shields to medical workers in nursing homes who work with particularly vulnerable patients.

    “This is a point of passion — as it should be for all of us — to care for our elderly, care for the people who literally raised us and took care of us,” Newsom said.

    Lorraine Gabbert contributed to this report.

    Follow along with San José Spotlight’s real-time coronavirus coverage on our LIVE BLOG here.

    Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter. Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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