With rising infections and death, Long Beach nursing homes are ‘highest priority’ for health officials

Long Beach officials on Wednesday revealed for the first time that a small number of long-term care facilities are accounting for a large percentage of the city’s COVID-19 infections and deaths.

According to the city’s public health department, 47 of the city’s 285 positive coronavirus cases have been linked to six long-term care facilities, along with four of the city’s seven fatalities.

From the earliest weeks of the pandemic, skilled nursing facilities and other kinds of long-term care centers have been hit particularly hard because of the underlying health problems and ages of residents, who share close quarters.

Health officials in Long Beach said they have been in around-the-clock contact with skilled nursing facilities. “This is our highest priority,” said Emily Holman, who heads the health department’s communicable disease program.

The city identified the following long-term care facilities as collectively accounting for the coronavirus deaths and fatalities but did not provide detailed breakdowns:

  • Palmcrest Grand Assisted Living
  • Long Beach Healthcare Center
  • Pacific Palms Healthcare
  • Bixby Knolls Towers
  • Broadway by the Sea
  • Glen Park Assisted Living

All of the facilities, except for Glen Park, reported two or more confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the city.

Nicole Francois, a spokesperson for Broadway by the Sea, on Wednesday said there have been positive coronavirus tests in the facility but no deaths. As of March 13, she said, the facility had stopped all visitors, increased cleaning protocols and was serving residents meals in their rooms to reduce interactions in common spaces.

“Our residents are mostly isolated in their room, most of the time,” she said.

Simply by their design, long-term health care facilities are a prime breeding ground for an epidemic, according to Barbara Ferrer, who leads the department of public health in Los Angeles County.

Residents live close together—often sharing rooms—and caregivers see many patients in a day.

“If an employee in a facility is positive for COVID-19 and is asymptomatic—is not showing symptoms—and is caring for 10 to 15 patients in a facility, you can see that the risk for their being exposed is much higher,” she said in a briefing Wednesday.

Already, LA County has had to quarantine entire facilities, Ferrer said, and that’s not even a worst-case scenario.

“I hope we never have such a huge outbreak in one facility that the only solution is for us to absolutely have to move everyone out,” she said.

Across the county, there have been COVID-19 cases in more than 130 different institutional settings—a definition that encompasses everything from assisted living facilities and nursing homes to jails and substance abuse treatment centers, according to Ferrer. Most of those institutions have only one or two cases.

Overall, those facilities have had 596 cases and 37 deaths, she said. All the fatalities have been residents.

These institutions all have strict infection-control regulations they must follow, and most do a good job at it, Ferrer said.

Nevertheless: “The facilities are organized in a way that actually makes that spread somewhat easier.”

In Long Beach, which has its own health department, officials are working with state consultants to ensure strict compliance with a checklist of protocols and mandates for facilities with at least one confirmed case. These include requirements for reporting of infections, placement of patients, staffing and infection prevention.

Sign at Long Beach Healthcare Center

One requirement is that facilities with at least one confirmed COVID-19 case must post a notification of the infection at their entrances. But that notification was not posted at two locations visited by a Post reporter.

Annie Parks, 76, has been a resident of Broadway by the Sea for four years. She says she’s not scared by COVID-19 in her facility. “Quite a few people,” she said, have been taken to the hospital for coronavirus symptoms but she didn’t know exactly how many.

Parks said she hasn’t been tested but isn’t worried. “I just believe God is not gonna allow it,” she said.

Parks, a longtime Long Beach resident, said these days she mostly stays in her room to help prevent the spread of the virus. “Right now, I just go outside and smoke and then work on my puzzle books in my room and watch TV,”  she said. “But they’re taking good care of me.”

If you have a relative living in the long-term care facilities listed by the city as having a confirmed COVID-19 case, please contact Kelly Puente at [email protected]

– Staff writer Jeremiah Dobruck contributed to this report 

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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