Covid-19 Update for Seniors in Nursing Homes In California

With California now opening up and most retailers welcoming customers, it seems like the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is over. Do the facts support this optimism? And when will you be able to visit your loved ones who are in nursing homes?


California has been in Stage 2 of reopening since May 18. This stage opens up retail, manufacturing, outdoor museums, personal services, and offices (when telecommuting is not possible). However, both workers and consumers in these settings must continue to abide by restrictions meant to prevent the spread the virus. These guidelines include social distancing and wearing masks. Complete reopening does not happen until Stage 4.

Counties that met specific benchmarks for testing capacity and hospitalization rates, among other standards, could accelerate their schedules. On June 12, Orange County allowed the reopening of the following:

  • movie theaters and family entertainment centers
  • restaurants, bars, and wineries
  • museums and zoos
  • hotels
  • card rooms and racetracks
  • gyms and fitness centers
  • campgrounds and outdoor recreation areas
  • day camps
  • public and Homeowner Association swimming pools

Personal care services, such as the following, were allowed to accept customers a week later, on June 19.

  • skin care and esthetics
  • cosmetology
  • electrology
  • nail salons
  • tattoo parlors
  • piercing shops
  • body art professionals
  • non-healthcare massage

Opening such facilities are technically part of Stage 3, which the rest of the state has yet to implement.

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals are NOT included in any of these schedules. These locations essentially remain on lockdown. Only patients, staff, and necessary vendors are allowed to enter.

What the Stats Show

Many business leaders, politicians, and consumers applaud these efforts to reverse the economic decline of many businesses and working people. However, many scientists and medical professionals fear that we are moving too quickly., especially given the current Covid-19 statistics.

  • The number of cases in the United States show no signs of decreasing. As of June 20, the CDC reports over 32,000 cases per day with over 2.2 million infected. New York City remains the hardest-hit location with 213,444 total cases and 22,244 deaths.
  • California ranks fourth with total cases at 165,416 and eighth for total deaths at 5,360.
  • As of June 21 (Sunday), Orange County shows 10,422 cases and 269 deaths, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. That day’s 434 new cases represent a spike over the seven-day average of 273 new cases. However, the increase is due to a backlog in reporting.
  • The age group in Orange County with the most cases is 25-34 with 19 percent followed by 45-54 with 17 percent, and 35-44 with 16 percent. About 14 percent of the cases involve those aged 55-64, 8 percent affect ages 65-74, and 6 percent comprise 75-84 year olds.

Covid-19 and Nursing Home Seniors in Orange County

The news about Covid-19 in nursing homes is still concerning, requiring special measures to protect your loved ones who live there. According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, the number of Covid-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities reached 1,047 as of June 21, Sunday.

  • Of those who were diagnosed with the virus, 135 have died.
  • Although only 11 percent of the total coronavirus cases affects seniors in nursing homes, 51 percent of related deaths come from those locations. This amounts to a fatality rate of 12 percent for those in skilled nursing facilities, compared to only 1.5 percent for the general population.
  • Among the reasons for the staggering death rate are the age of the residents who are often in poor health. Because they live in close quarters, any virus, including Covid-19, can spread quickly.
  • Orange County Emergency Medical Services reports that 29 of the 71 skilled nursing facilities in Orange County had outbreaks, which is defined as at least two resident diagnosis within 14 days. That figure amounts to 41 percent.

What Nursing Homes Must Do to Limit Transmission

Last May 11, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) required skilled nursing facilities to submit Covid-19 mitigation plans. Such plans had to include the following elements:

  • Regular testing of residents residents and staff.
  • Cloth face coverings for residents, healthcare providers, and anyone else visiting the facility. Staff should have at least two separate face coverings: one to be used and left in the facility and another to be worn when they leave the facility at the end of their shifts.
  • Dedicated spaces within the location where infected patients and their healthcare providers can remain separate from general residents and staff.
  • A designated staffer who communicates daily with staff, residents, and families about how the coronavirus is affecting the facility.

The CDPH ensures compliance by regularly visiting a facility every six to eight weeks. If they determine that the facility is not living up to its mitigation plan or discover unsafe practices that jeopardize the health of residents, they can enforce the plan, call in a jeopardy situation, and impose a civil penalty.

What You Can Do

You can find out if your facility has reported any Covid-19 cases or deaths at the CDPH website. Whether it has or not, keep in constant touch with your loved one and the designated communication staffer of his or her nursing home. Ask for a copy of the mitigation plan and ask your loved one how the facility is meeting those standards.

If someone you care about has contracted Covid-19 or died from it, the nursing home may be liable, especially if they have not been following their plan or have had enforcement actions from the CDPH. Contact one of our attorneys immediately and we can discuss your case.

Disclaimer: The medical content of this blog is provided for information only and is not intended as medical advice or substitute for the advice of a physician.


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