A coronavirus outbreak at the San Miguel Villa nursing home in Concord has elder care experts renewing calls for increased state-level oversight of nursing home operations during this pandemic.
A total of 75 people have had confirmed infections at the nursing facility, and 15 people there have already died from the virus, including 14 elderly residents and one staff member. It's now the biggest outbreak at a skilled nursing facility in the Bay Area since early May, when a nursing home in Vallejo had 102 infections that resulted in 16 deaths — an outbreak that has relatives of residents calling for the facility to be shut down. Similar outbreaks have happened at nursing homes in San Francisco, Pacifica, Oakland, Hayward, Orinda, Millbrae, and elsewhere — and a total of 125 nursing homes have been impacted in the Bay Area alone.
As the Chronicle reports, San Miguel Villa has refused to speak to the press about the outbreak, and we're only now learning that this is the cause for the uptick in deaths in Contra Costa County over the last two weeks — a total of 18 new deaths since June 15th, with six reported on Saturday alone.
The outbreak was only known to the press thanks to the state's data portal on nursing facilities, which showed that 62 residents and 13 staffers had been infected. As the Mercury News reports, at least 45 residents still have active infections at San Miguel, which has a total of 190 beds.
The state Health Services Department intervened to help Contra Costa County's health department manage the outbreak after they were called in on May 22, according the Chronicle.
Under state guidelines issued at the start of the pandemic, all nursing homes must have an infection mitigation plan, and all are required to complete baseline testing of all residents and staff by June 30. But a UCSF expert tells the Chronicle that some facilities are still lagging behind in completing this step.
In San Francisco, all 21 nursing homes are undergoing biweekly testing of all residents and staff as of early May.
The problem persisting across the state is that staff members are bringing the virus into the facilities, most of which have been under lockdown with no visitors since March. "Where we’ve seen a lot of the spread is when staff in these low-wage jobs are having to work in multiple facilities to ensure their financial stability, without benefits that don’t necessarily allow them to have sick leave," says Dr. Sara Levin, deputy health officer for Contra Costa County, speaking to the Mercury News.
Charlene Harrington, a professor in the UCSF School of Nursing, tells the Chronicle, "We are still not on top of the problem. How can this happen right under everybody’s nose? It can only happen if there is nobody out there monitoring the facilities." Harrington and others contend that state oversight of nursing homes has always been lax and lacking in proper penalties.
And, indeed, San Miguel Villa is rated "much above average" according to data from Medicaid, despite state inspectors having found 36 "deficiencies" there over the past three years, per the Merc. Those deficiencies included issues with controlling the spread of infection.
Photo via Yelp