The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) — after weeks of pressure and push from healthcare providers and the general public — has published a partial list of nursing homes that have recorded COVID-19 cases. The report includes 258 affected facilities; 34 of those listed are in the Bay Area.
Communicable pathogens thrive in tight corridors, leaping from one host to the next with unabridged ease. Viruses, especially respiratory ones — influenza, SARS, and, of course, the novel coronavirus — can quickly overtake crowded healthcare centers in lieu of proper social distancing and sanitation practices. Given the fact that seniors living inside nursing homes are among the most vulnerable to viral infections, it's imperative healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, practitioners, etc.) working with those populations have access to all the relevant data possible in order to combat such breakouts.
Well, after over a month of public insistence, the CDPH has finally released a list of nursing facilities in the state that have recorded COVID-19 cases. And the results are grim... to put it mildly.
Of California's 1,224 recognized skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), over a fifth of them (258) have recorded COVDI-19 cases as of April 19. The vast majority of these SNFs reported low case numbers; most of the coronavirus-afflicted SNFs show caseloads of less than 11 individuals. But, as KPBS so insightfully pointed out: California is solely relying on self-reporting from SNFs, because the state stopped on-site inspections in response to the pandemic, so these numbers could well be underreported.
(Because of how communicable this virus is — especially before the host becomes symptomatic — those reported figures are likely even more conservative than we think and will bloom in the coming days.)
A particularly worrisome finding in the CDPH's recent report is that 34 of these SNFs are located in the Bay Area — with seven of those in SF, Central Gardens being the most affected of them with 63 confirmed cases. However, Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward, the hardest-hit SNF in the region, has almost double the count Central Gardens is reporting.
Currently, the East Bay nursing facility has some 102 confirmed cases among its staff and patients, highlighting how social distancing in a nursing home is something of a "luxury" many aren't afforded.
“Overall, about a fifth of deaths from the virus in the United States have been tied to nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, the Times review of cases shows. And more than 36,500 residents and employees across the nation have contracted it.” https://t.co/LA8QOqbiq2— Catherine Lucey (@catherine_lucey) April 18, 2020
“We’ve been congratulating ourselves in California for having flattened the curve but social distance is a luxury in a nursing home the same as it is in a prison,” Mike Dark, and attorney who works with advocates for nursing home reform, said about the recent report via KRON4. “[These numbers] are frighteningly just the tip of the iceberg because the data is self-reported and we know many that facilities are not telling the state the problems that they are having."
Dark and others suggest the need for more personal protection equipment, like face masks and gloves, to be given to these SNFs as well expanding opportunities for social distancing and proper sanitation practices within them to help circumvent such containment catastrophes in the future.
This most current “point-in-time snapshot” of the state’s nursing home cases in the report accounts for 86 percent of California SNFs.
Image: Unsplash via Cristian Newman