SAN JOSE – With new COVID-19 cases in California, nursing homes and homeless centers in the Bay Area have been hit hard with terrifying outbreaks.
A total of 232 cases of COVID have occurred at two care facilities in San Jose, and Santa Clara County saw the first major outbreak in a homeless shelter, which infected 60 people as of November 23.
The outbreaks in nursing homes haven’t been all that amazing since the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.
A facility, Westwood Post-Acute, which used to be Amberwood Gardens, had a total of 151 confirmed COVID cases on Wednesday, according to Santa Clara County officials. The residents of the center accounted for 81 cases and 70 for the staff.
The other facility, the Skyline Healthcare Center, had a total of 86 positive cases as of Wednesday – 66 residents and 20 healthcare workers.
District officials said they are sending specialized teams to investigate the outbreaks, conduct tests and enforce security measures. The county also offers its own employees to work in the houses if necessary to relieve employees who have tested positive.
“The bigger the situation, the more resources we make available,” said the deputy health officer, Dr. Elsa Villarino.
Westwood Post-Acute officials issued a written statement to the news organization that preventing the spread of COVID is a top priority.
While Westwood’s 258-bed facility prevented a COVID outbreak for several months as part of a state-approved mitigation plan, that changed as the nationwide surge saw it and there are currently 56 residents and 10 employees who a company statement said was positive for the virus have been confirmed.
“All employees with COVID restrictions do not work and the facility handles vacancies appropriately,” the company’s statement said. The company is also working with the county health department to ensure that proper infection control protocols are being followed.
State health records show that this year inspectors identified several cases where Westwood Post-Acute failed to follow proper infection control protocols to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID to residents, employees and visitors.
Specifically, in August, the inspectors found that the facility was not properly documenting the information for screening staff and visitors. An earlier inspection in May revealed that an employee was not wearing her mask properly. And state inspectors found in March that a shortage of nursing assistants at night meant that residents were only given bed baths instead of full showers. While this is not directly related to COVID care, studies have shown that facilities with a shortage of staff struggle to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.
At the Skyline Healthcare Center, inspectors who visited the facility in May and July found that several employees were not wearing masks and the facility had not properly checked them by checking their temperatures as they entered.
Skyline’s parent company, Mariner Healthcare, also operates a care home in Hayward, which suffered a major COVID outbreak earlier this year. A lawsuit against the company claims staff shortages may have resulted in poor care for residents at the facility.
Though previously relatively spared from major COVID outbreaks, homeless shelters have also seen an increase since early November.
“We recently had an outbreak in one of our homeless shelters and this is actually the first major outbreak in a Santa Clara County homeless shelter since the pandemic began,” said Dr. George Han, the county assistant health officer.
At the Boccardo Reception Center, an emergency shelter in San Jose, 60 cases have been confirmed since Nov. 23, accounting for about half of the 120 people staying there.
District officials say 20 unhoused people tested positive on November 23, another 26 a week later on November 29, and 14 that week. In addition, four employees were infected during this period.
Another San Jose homeless shelter, South Hall, reported a total of seven cases since November 18. This animal shelter has 285 beds and is one of the largest in the district.
Han said district officials are also monitoring the accumulation of cases at South Hall to ensure it “doesn’t turn into an outbreak situation.”
“It is not yet clear whether these seven cases represent the normal number of cases you might expect given how much COVID is being transmitted in the community, or if it is the beginning of an outbreak. Hence, it will this is currently investigating, “Han added.
It is clear, however, that as cases increase in the wider community, so do cases in community care facilities such as homeless shelters and skilled care facilities.
“This of course coincides with the extreme spike in cases we’ve seen since early November,” Han said Thursday. “As cases increase in the church, it also means more cases are introduced into these congregation settings.”
California is seeing an average of nearly 15,000 new cases of COVID each day – the highest number than any other time in the pandemic. The rate of people who tested positive for COVID has reached 7.3%, down from 5.3% two weeks ago and 3% in early November.
The number of nationwide hospitalizations has also increased, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to issue a new order Thursday that will enforce additional restrictions in all five regions of the state where less than 15% of intensive care units are available. None of the regions – separated into Northern California, the Bay Area, Greater Sacramento, the San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California – are currently breaking but could be in a few days, Newsom said.
Staff writer Evan Webeck contributed to the coverage.
Please help us shed light on elderly care by providing details by scrolling down and filling out the form below or emailing us at [email protected]. Your information reaches reporters who cover the effects of the coronavirus on nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You can also leave a message by phone at 925-943-8073. Thank you for your help.