SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Residents of long-term care homes in California make up nearly 40% of the COVID-19 deaths in the state, new public health data shows, making skilled nursing and assisted living facilities by far the deadliest hotspots in the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 578 nursing home residents in California have died of complications caused by the new coronavirus, according to state health department data published Tuesday, approximately one-third of all confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the state.
Tuesday was the first time California officials had released any numbers about deaths at nursing homes from COVID-19. The numbers could be higher because the current ones only include those “known by the facility” and might not include deaths that occurred after a resident was transferred to a hospital or private home.
By Friday, at least 144 residents in California assisted living facilities, which cater to the elderly but do not provide the same level of medical care as nursing homes, had died of COVID-19 complications, according to the most recent report from the California Department of Social Services.
Fewer than 11 employees at nursing homes have also died, according to the data. The state did not provide a precise number of employee deaths, saying only that the number was less than 11. The state also is not yet providing the number of fatalities linked to specific facilities.
To date, slightly more than 1,800 Californians have died from COVID-19. The dramatic death numbers for long-term care facilities puts California’s eldercare facilities alongside other large states and Western Europe as the deadliest places to live.
Despite state-at-home orders across the country, unofficial tallies indicate more than 6,700 skilled nursing home residents have died from the virus nationwide. The World Health Organization says up to half of all coronavirus deaths in Europe are in long-term care facilities.
Until now, California only knew how many COVID-19 deaths had occurred at nursing homes if county health officials chose to release the information or from news media reports.
At least 24 deaths are associated with Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Tulare County, a spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday. At least 82 residents are also being monitored after testing positive while at the facility, home to one of the largest and deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in California.
Cedar Mountain Post Acute Rehabilitation in San Bernardino County is associated with 18 deaths, the LA Times reported. At least 67 residents and 12 employees were also infected, according to the most recent state data.
While the majority of outbreaks and known fatalities are in Southern California, at least 38 nursing home residents have died in Santa Clara County, according to the county’s health department.
And with six deaths as of last week, Stollwood Convalescent Hospital at St. John’s Retirement Village in Woodland is the largest known cluster of fatalities among nursing homes in the Sacramento area. Twenty-two residents at the facility were sick as of Tuesday, according to the state data.
“We mourn the senseless, tragic loss of skilled nursing residents who have been victimized by a killer virus that targets innocent, elderly individuals,” said Deborah Pacyna, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents the majority of nursing homes in the state. “Our number one focus is the protection of our residents and dedicated staff and we need personal protective equipment and prioritized testing to fight COVID-19.”
In California, at least 3,515 nursing home residents, and 2,323 health care workers at nursing homes have been infected since the pandemic began infecting residents at hundreds of the state’s roughly 1,200 facilities.
The California Department of Public Health is requiring all skilled nursing facilities to report daily the number of residents and staff who test positive for COVID-19. The data about deaths appear to have been published Tuesday morning and represent the 86% of nursing homes that reported in the last 24 hours.
“As such, it is not a comprehensive count,” the state said.
For the first time, the California Department of Public Health on April 17 published the names of each nursing home with a resident or employee who has tested positive for the disease. Across the country, nursing homes have been devastated with thousands of deaths from the new coronavirus pandemic. Until that day, the state had only once released broad statewide numbers.
Nursing home representatives have long complained that they have been overlooked during the coronavirus pandemic.
They say a lack of timely COVID-19 tests for nursing home residents and workers is making it difficult to detect case clusters and outbreaks. Medical workers in senior facilities are struggling to buy masks, gloves and gowns just like hospitals and government agencies. Nursing homes are expected to receive just $1.5 billion of the recent $2 trillion stimulus bill.
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