Sonoma County had its single biggest one-day leap in its COVID death count late Tuesday when it recorded seven new deaths from the coronavirus, all in skilled nursing facilities.
The seven deaths had occurred over the last week and were all recorded at once, as the Press-Democrat reports, and they occurred at four different nursing homes. The addition of seven new deaths brought the county's toll to 31 — a 29-percent uptick from the day before. Up until now, the county had averaged just over 1 death per week since the pandemic began.
Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County's public health officer, expressed frustration about the fact that skilled nursing facilities can't be regulated at the local level — instead they answer to the state. And she said she is working with other state and county officials to establish a location in the county where COVID-positive nursing home residents can be moved when they test positive, to separate them from the uninfected.
"All of us, including the state of California, have been trying to find a solution, find a way in which we can protect this vulnerable group,” Mase says to the Press-Democrat. “Unfortunately, when COVID gets into a facility, it rapidly transmits amongst a really vulnerable population.”
Prior to Tuesday night's reporting of seven new deaths, deaths had already occurred in Sonoma County at three nursing facilities: Broadway Villa Post Acute in Sonoma and Empress Post Acute Rehabilitation in Petaluma, and Petaluma Post Acute. State data confirms that at least 20 residents had also been confirmed COVID-positive at Sonoma Post Acute on 2nd Street in Sonoma, and a smaller outbreak also occurred at Vineyard Post Acute in Petaluma.
Across California and the nation, communal living environments, prisons, and workplaces where social distancing is not possible have been hotbeds for the spread of the virus. And skilled nursing facilities, which are home to some of the nation's most vulnerable elderly, have been hit hard in every state where the virus has spread.
In California, over 18,400 nursing home residents have been infected with COVID-19, as well as over 13,300 healthcare workers at those facilities.
Nationwide, according to federal data, there have been 232,000 confirmed and suspected COVID cases among residents in nursing homes, and 38,518 deaths to date.
Contra Costa and Alameda counties have had multiple nursing home outbreaks, and deaths have been recorded at nursing homes in every county in the region. In early May, the LA Times reported that nearly half of all COVID-related deaths in the state had occurred among nursing home residents.
In San Francisco, all staff and residents at the city's nursing facilities are now ostensibly being tested on a biweekly basis, regardless of symptoms, following an early outbreak that was stemmed at the massive Laguna Honda Hospital.
Dr. Mase on Tuesday urgently called upon nursing facility administrators to increase safety protocols, calling this "an unacceptable situation from the county perspective."
Photo courtesy of Broadway Villa Post Acute