By Bradley Bermont | Pasadena Star-News | April 23, 2020
Medical teams from the California National Guard have been deployed to four Los Angeles County nursing homes hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, including one in Pasadena, another in Gardena and two in the city of Los Angeles.
The four, eight-member teams were sent to the facilities on Sunday and Monday, Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma said in an interview Thursday, and more may be deployed in the coming days.
There are five military-type medics on each team, plus one physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, one administrative sergeant and one support service member to help with administrative work, such as payroll and other day-to-day operational necessities, Shiroma said.
The teams will stay until they’re not needed anymore, Shiroma added.
The Pasadena facility, Brighton Care Center, was the most hard-hit out of the four facilities, according to state data released last week.
As of April 17, Brighton Care Center reported 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases among its staff and 46 cases among residents. The facility has a total of 99 beds, according to the state, but it’s unclear how many of those are in use.
Representatives from the facility did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.
A team was also deployed to the Gardena Convalescent Center, where 18 staff members and 33 residents had contracted the virus, according to last week’s state report. The facility has 74 beds.
The facility’s administrator declined to answer any questions and referred this newsgroup to the corporate office, which hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
In Los Angeles, the teams have been deployed to two facilities: Hollywood Premier Healthcare Center, which has seen 25 cases among staff and 29 among residents, and the Alcott Rehabilitation Hospital, which has at least one case, according to state figures.
The teams were deployed at the request of the California Department of Public Health, Shiroma said, although it’s unclear what the criteria is for deployment. The state health department’s media office had yet to return a request for comment.
In an email addressed to the Pasadena City Council earlier this week, City Manager Steve Mermell told officials that facilities could ask for help from the California National Guard or the California Health Corps by making a resource request through the state’s Office of Emergency Management.
Curiously, some of the area’s most impacted facilities haven’t seen any help from the California National Guard yet. For instance, Brier Oak on Sunset in East Hollywood has 142 cases spread between staff and residents, according to state data, but Shiroma said a team had not been sent there.
The same is true for Silver Lake’s Garden Crest Rehabilitation Center, which has 70 cases split between residents and staff, and numerous other facilities that have as many, if not more cases than the facilities where teams have been sent.
The extent to which the state’s health department is coordinating with its local counterparts is also unclear.
In their daily calls to nursing homes, Pasadena’s health department is asking each facility whether or not the California National Guard is onsite, according to the city’s health director Dr. Ying-Ying Goh.
All of Pasadena’s 29 deaths — the most recent figure available Thursday evening — have been at nursing or assisted living homes. Health officials have investigated outbreaks at 15 of those facilities.
Pasadena’s health department was now “devoting the majority of its resources to protecting the residents and staff” in these facilities by increasing testing and providing more personal protective equipment, Mermell’s email reads.
Across all of Los Angeles County, 310 of the county’s 797 deaths occurred at similar facilities, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during Thursday’s midday coronavirus press conference.
Ferrer said the county was continuing to work closely with facility operators. She said local efforts are being enhanced by a team with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that will contain certain outbreaks and share best practices.
Nursing homes were also being provided this week with many more supplies of personal protective equipment, Ferrer said.
Staff writer Ariella Plachta contributed to this report.