Over 30 Bay Area nursing facilities report COVID-19 cases as crisis grows

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By Cristina Rendon, KTVU FOX 2 News

OAKLAND, Calif (KTVU) – Data from the California Department of Public Health show out of more than 1,200 skilled nursing facilities, at least 258 facilities are dealing with coronavirus cases.

In the Bay Area, Santa Clara County has been particularly hit hard with coronavirus cases reported at 11 facilities. Notable outbreaks include Canyon Springs Post-Acute in San Jose where 26 staffers and 45 patients have tested positive for COVID-19, Cedar Crest Nursing & Rehab in Sunnyvale where 19 staffers and 38 patients have tested positive for COVID-19, and Valley House Rehab Center in Santa Clara where 21 staffers and 42 patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

Alameda County has nine skilled nursing facilities with coronavirus cases. The most notable include East Bay Post-Acute where 24 staffers and 26 patients have tested positive for COVID-19, and Gateway Care & Rehab Center where 33 staffers and 69 patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

Benton Collins, Administrator at Canyon Springs Post-Acute, said there have been five deaths at their facility related to the coronavirus. Shane McCormack, Administrator at East Bay Post-Acute, said there have been two deaths. Collins and McCormack told KTVU the facilities have been “vigilant” in adopting practices under federal and state guidelines. They have also taken steps to mitigate the spread of the virus by restricting visitors, screening staff, building up personal protective equipment, and preparing isolation areas.

Part of a statement from both facilities reads: “We have been vigilant and early for weeks in adopting the practices and protocols that have been directed by the Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, state, and county guidance to protect the frail and vulnerable residents entrusted to our care. This incident underscores the service and sacrifices made by our dedicated team every day. We’re grateful for their continued efforts. Our top priority remains the health and well-being of everyone in our facility.”

In San Francisco, there are six facilities with coronavirus cases, including Central Gardens Convalescent where 26 staffers and 36 patients have tested positive for COVID-19.

Part of a statement from Central Gardens reads: “Central Gardens’ primary concern is the health and well-being of our residents and staff. In light of the pandemic, we have enhanced our infection control protocols in a number of ways, consistent with guidance provided by the CDC, CMS and other federal, state and local healthcare authorities. Those enhancements include, among others, restricting non-medically necessary visits to our facility, screening employees and residents for symptoms and high temperatures, isolating persons who show signs or symptoms, and avoiding group activities where possible.”

San Mateo and Contra Costa counties have coronavirus cases at two facilities, while Marin and Sonoma counties have cases in at least one facility.

Mike Dark, staff attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said he believes the numbers of coronavirus cases at nursing homes in California may be much higher because only 86% of skilled nursing facilities reported their numbers to the state.

“What we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg and it’s going to get much much worse before it gets better,” Dark said. “It does not include real numbers of illnesses and deaths from facilities who, for business reasons, are not wanting to say how bad the problem is.”

Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday said the state is working on updating the numbers to include all skilled nursing facilities, and number for the more than 7,000 adult and senior care centers across California.

“We’ll also include in that number, the number of deaths, not just the number of facilities, the number of staff and patients that have been impacted by covid-19,” Newsom said.

The White House announced Sunday it is requiring nursing homes across the country to report coronavirus cases directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as to patients and their families. The announcement was made by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma.

“It’s important that patients and their families have the information that they need,” Verma said. “They need to understand what’s going on in the nursing home.”

Dark said state regulators and inspectors are needed in facilities on the ground, instead of making telephone calls to check on the status of cases.

“Even while we are patting ourselves on the back for flattening the curve in California and New York, we’re able to do that because of social distancing,” he said. “There is no social distancing inside a nursing home.”