Los Angeles County officials are investigating coronavirus outbreaks at 11 area nursing homes, where elderly residents with underlying health conditions are among the most vulnerable to the deadly new pathogen.
That’s up from three nursing home outbreaks county officials had announced on Friday. The county defines an outbreak as three or more cases involving residents or staff at a facility.
County Department of Public Health director Barbara Ferrer said Monday the agency is investigating a total of 25 institutions, 18 of them being nursing homes, that have at least one suspected coronavirus case. Of the 44 coronavirus deaths that had been reported in the county as of Monday, six were nursing home residents, Ferrer said.
The county released the names of all 11 homes with outbreaks, including Kensington Assisted Living in Redondo Beach, Alameda Care Center in Burbank and Silverado Beverly Place in Los Angeles.
“Where there’s one case at an institutional setting, our Department of Public Health team does go in and it works with the facility and management and staff to ensure they’re doing the best they can to protect the health of their residents,” Ferrer said. “… Most of the residents who are in facilities where there are cases have, in fact, been quarantined.”
COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in nursing homes across the country, with catastrophic potential. One of the first hot spots in the United States was at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, where two-thirds of the residents and 47 workers fell ill, and 37 people died.
Families with loved ones in nursing homes should seriously consider pulling them out if it’s at all feasible to care for them at home, Charlene Harrington, professor emeritus at UC San Francisco’s School of Nursing, told the Los Angeles Times.
“The risk of exposure is so overwhelming,” said Harrington, who has studied nursing homes since the 1980s. “It’s a terrible concern.”
Also concerning to nursing home administrators and physicians is guidance from federal and some state regulators to accept new residents and those returning from hospitals without proof that they are virus-free.
Hospitals in New York are so burdened for space that regulators there ordered nursing homes to take in discharged patients even if they are COVID-19 positive, The Times reported.
Those nursing homes will “do their best, they’ll try to contain it, but people will run out of (protective equipment), caregivers will get sick, and people will die,” said David A. Nace, clinical chief of geriatric medicine for University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “New York will have killed people. There’s no way to soften that statement. It’s such a vulnerable population.”