SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will help skilled nursing facilities wracked by the coronavirus by providing additional bed space for their patients on a Navy hospital ship and shipping masks and gloves for their workers, the governor said Friday.
The state will also help track the virus in more than 1,000 facilities and isolate those who test positive, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
The announcements came as Newsom warned skilled nursing facilities are especially vulnerable to the virus and that more than 1,200 residents and staff had tested positive. Another 370 people at small, home-based facilities also have the virus, he said.
“Skilled nursing facilities continue to be a top priority,” Newsom said in a daily briefing.
“This state has a disproportionate number of aging and graying individuals and we have a unique responsibility to take care of them and take care of their caregivers,” he said.
Skilled nursing facilities are a particular concern because of the age and health conditions of residents, and their close living arrangements. Outbreaks have been reported in facilities from San Bernardino to the San Francisco Bay Area, and dozens of residents have died.
Facilities have limited visitors since March and workers said they now undergo temperature checks and fill out questionnaires before their shifts to try to limit the spread of the disease.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe life-threatening illness, including pneumonia.
In San Francisco’s East Bay region, nearly three dozen residents and two dozen staff at a skilled nursing facility in Hayward tested positive for the virus, and six of the residents died. On Friday, Los Angeles County officials said more than one in four virus deaths in the county was a resident of a skilled nursing or assisted living facility.
In Riverside County, a skilled nursing facility was evacuated this week after staff failed to show up for work two days in a row shortly after residents there tested positive for the virus.
The U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Mercy, which has a thousand hospital beds and is docked in Los Angeles, will begin taking nursing home patients who don’t have the virus in addition to patients without the virus from overflowed hospitals, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services.
Newsom said the state has also identified seven other locations with hundreds of more beds that can provide support to nursing facilities. Hundreds of state workers are calling California’s skilled nursing facilities every day to learn whether staff and patients are sick and to see what resources the facilities need, he said.
California is also working to provide hotel accommodations and stipends to workers at the facilities, he said.
Newsom said the state was looking out for its seniors outside these facilities, adding the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help deliver meals to those who are isolated in their homes.
Taxin reported from Orange County, California. Associated Press writer John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.