A new outbreak of COVID-19 at San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital — the first since a small outbreak was quickly contained in the spring and became a model for other long-term care facilities dealing with the pandemic — has infected more than 50 staff members and residents, and continues to grow.
The outbreak began earlier this month and it comes just as the city-owned facility was preparing to begin vaccinating residents and staff next week. As the Chronicle reports, 10 new cases have been reported at Laguna Honda in the last two days, and the outbreak appears significant. Three elderly residents of the facility, all men over the age of 75 who resided in a memory-care unit, have died in the outbreak. One died on December 11, another on December 22, and the third on Tuesday, December 29.
To date, Laguna Honda Hospital — a large long-term care facility for the elderly and infirm with over 700 beds — has had 163 cases of COVID-19. 122 of those have been among staff members, and 41 among residents.
The hospital, which had already closed to visitors in early March, had to lock down further a few weeks later when five staff members turned up COVID-positive. That outbreak was quickly contained, but it led to a citywide policy instituted in May in which all residents and staff at nursing homes were being tested every two weeks.
Per the Chronicle, that testing has not always been consistent as cases surged, staff members likely brought the virus back into the facility in November. Now, residents and staff are being tested twice a week at Laguna Honda, in an effort to contain the current outbreak.
There was another outbreak at the facility in July in which 25 people were infected, but until this month there had been no COVID-related deaths.
Early on, Laguna Honda staff had identified the memory-care unit, housed on what's called the North Mezzanine, as a potential site for an outbreak. Several factors contributed to this, including the fact that residents — who often are not lucid — have trouble keeping masks on or keeping distant from one another.
"The first resident death was very emotional," said Nawzaneen Talai, chief quality officer for the hospital, speaking to the Chronicle. "There was this moment of defeat, when really it’s not. The staff has done an incredible job. There’s a reason we were so vigilant about this particular unit — this outcome was always highly plausible."
Talai says that what's happening at Laguna Honda is a reflection of the larger surge in cases in the city. "Just as this surge has been tremendous in the community, it’s hit us hard too," she tells the Chronicle.
In partnership with Walgreens, the hospital will begin vaccinating residents and staff on Monday, and expects to have 80% of residents inoculated with the first shot within two days.