Health officials said the corona virus outbreak at a skilled nursing facility on the central coast of California has killed nine people and infected more than 60 residents and employees.
The outbreak at the Watsonville Post Acute Center in Santa Cruz County comes as rates of new COVID-19 cases drop in that county and in California as a whole.
Dr David Gillarducci, deputy district public health official, said the first case was discovered when a resident tested positive for COVID-19 after going to hospital for unrelated medical reasons.
He said tests quickly showed that twenty others had contracted the virus but had not shown any symptoms.
The facility currently has 56 residents. Gillarducci said 17 people currently infected with COVID-19 have been separated from the other residents, and 27 have tested negative but have been isolated due to suspected exposure and scores of residents have shown no evidence of exposure.
Gillarducci said that the 15 employees who tested positive for the virus have been isolated at home or in hotel rooms provided by the province.
He said this caused a problem with recruitment and National Guard personnel were brought in to help.
He said half of the deaths occurred during the past two weeks, and the rest over the weekend. They account for half of the 18 COVID-19 deaths that have occurred in the province since the pandemic began.
“We don’t know now what triggered this,” he said of the outbreak. “I talk to their medical director almost daily to try to find out.”
He said public health workers in the state are also participating.
He said other nursing facilities in the province had only shown a few cases in the past months.
Skilled nursing facilities were a hotspot of COVID-19 infection during the first months of the pandemic. Residents are usually elderly and have a variety of health problems that put them at greater risk of contracting a serious case of coronavirus.
At least 4,692 residents and employees have died, accounting for nearly a third of all COVID-19 deaths in California since the start of the pandemic, according to figures released by the California Department of Public Health.
Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a law requiring skilled nursing facilities to report disease-related deaths during an infectious disease emergency to the state’s Department of Public Health within 24 hours. The procedure also requires that nursing homes have a full-time ‘infection prevention specialist’ on staff and have an infection prevention plan in place.