L.A. County Nursing Homes Hot Zones for Coronavirus Contagion

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Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health (CBS Los Angeles)

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Well over half of the skilled nursing facilities identified by California officials as having experienced one or more cases of COVID-19 are in Los Angeles County.

Of the 261 facilities on the California Department of Health list, 148 are located in Los Angeles County.

The department’s website said the list is a snapshot representing 86% of the state’s 1,224 skilled-nursing facilities that have reported data within the last 24 hours.

The worst outbreaks were noted at the following locations:

• The Brier Oak on Sunset nursing home at 5154 Sunset Blvd. had 80 patients and 62 staff members test positive for the coronavirus;

• The Country Villa South Convalescent Center at 3515 Overland Ave. reported 15 patients and 58 staff members with the virus;

• The Brighton Care Center at 1836 N. Fair Oaks Ave. in Pasadena had 20 patients and 43 staff members test positive;

• Country Villa Pavilion Nursing Center at 5916 Pico Blvd. reported 17 patients and 45 staff members were positive;

• Garden Crest Rehabilitation Center at 909 Lucile Ave. reported cases among 35 patients and 35 staff members.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, said Friday that 20 nursing homes or care facilities in the county have had outbreaks of 20 or more people testing positive, and the county has asked for help from state and federal officials to control the virus’ spread and ensure affected facilities are fully staffed.

“We have requested additional assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and the state to help us address the need for increased technical assistance at the large number of sites that have positive cases,” Ferrer said. “This is particularly technical assistance around being able to implement stringent infection-control processes, and also we’ve requested additional staffing to support the high rate of staff absences at some of the facilities, which again limits the ability of the staff to provide high-quality care.

“We’re also working with a handful of nursing home providers who have offered to help us set up sites that can service COVID-19-positive patients that need to reside at skilled nursing facilities and intermediate-care facilities and are transitioning back, in many cases, from having stayed in a hospital for a few days,” she said.

According to Ferrer, at least one coronavirus case has occurred in 228 institutional settings — including nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons — across the county, for a total of 2,183 cases. Those cases were 1,215 residents and 968 staff.

Institutional settings on the list include Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center in Lincoln Heights with less than 11 residents and less than 11 staff; and Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center in Gardena with 23 residents and no staff.

Both facilities were operated by Keiro before they were acquired by Pacifica Companies LLC. Pacifica also acquired the facilities now known as Sakura Intermediate Care Facility and Sakura Gardens (retirement home).

The county stated, “Inclusion on this list does not suggest neglect or wrongdoing on the part of the facility.”

A sign on the door at Kei-Ai South Bay is directed at anyone not employed or admitted at the facility: “Help keep COVID-19 out of our facility. We must currently restrict visitors. For the next few weeks, in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus … and its potential impact to our residents and staff, we are taking special precautions:

“1) Restricting all visitors (volunteers, family members, performers, non-medical or non-employees, etc.) from entering the facility.

“2) Conducting health screens on individuals entering the facility.

“Please help keep our facility safe.”

The Rafu Shimpo has reached out to the administrators of both Kei-Ai nursing homes for comment and is awaiting a response.

The new data drew a quick response from union leaders.

“The data that was recently shared on the persistent, growing and deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in California nursing homes is a clarion call to action for all of us,” said April Verrett, president of Service Employees International Union Local 2015. “This deadly pandemic is targeting our most vulnerable elders. Those charged with caring for them — low-wage workers, almost always women — are walking into infection zones without the most basic of protections. Immediate testing of all residents and staff must be required as well as 100% daily reporting on infection rates from all skilled nursing facilities in the state.”

A total of 177 deaths have occurred in those settings, primarily at nursing homes or assisted living centers. That total represents roughly 36% of the virus deaths that have occurred countywide.

“We are extraordinarily worried about the outbreaks that continue to happen across the many different institutional settings,” Ferrer said.

The county’s death toll rose to 495 on Friday with the announcement of 40 additional fatalities, although two of those were actually reported Thursday afternoon by officials in Pasadena, which maintains its own health department separate from the county.

For the 425 deaths for which ethnic data is available, 34% were Latinx, 29% were white, 18% were Asian and 16% were black.

The county mortality rate — the percentage of people with coronavirus who have died — was at 4.3%. That number is significantly higher than the 1.8% rate reported at the beginning of the month, but officials said the percentage will likely drop as the availability of coronavirus testing grows.

Ferrer reported 567 new cases in the county, although that figure includes 41 cases that were reported Thursday afternoon by officials in Pasadena and Long Beach, which also has its own health department.

As of midday Friday, the countywide total number of cases stood at 11,391.

Ferrer said 1,441 cases have been confirmed among health care workers in the county, 38% of them being nurses and 6% of them doctors. The cases were scattered among 26 health care facilities, 36% of them hospitals and 31% skilled nursing facilities.

Five deaths have been confirmed among health care workers, three of them nurses. Three of the deaths involved skilled nursing facility workers, one was a correctional health worker and one worked in a hospital, Ferrer said.

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