Irvine Should Require COVID-19 Protections for Nursing Home Patients and Staff

Nursing homes in California have been hit hard by COVID-19. 

As the Los Angeles Times points out, “Nursing homes have become a tragic focal point of the coronavirus outbreak, with their elderly residents, many of whom have underlying health conditions, accounting for a large percentage of COVID-19 deaths across the country. More than 30% of those who have died in Los Angeles County were residents of long-term care facilities; more than 70% of the deaths in Long Beach have been nursing home residents.”  

Patients are removed from Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside after dozens tested positive for the coronavirus and staffers, afraid for their safety, stopped showing up for shifts.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Nationally, outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living centers have been among the most quick-spreading and deadly of the crisis.

Long-term care facilities have accounted for at least 221 deaths in Washington, or about half of the deaths in the state. In New York, more than half of nursing homes have positive cases, and more than 1,700 people in such facilities, about a third of nursing home residents with COVID-19, have died.

Yet, even as deaths from COVID-19 continue to climb in California, especially among older people, our state, county and local governments have not acted with the decisiveness needed to protect our most vulnerable population.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “As the novel coronavirus continues to tear through nursing homes, state and local governments have been slow to inform the public about the scope of the crisis. The state’s list, which officials have promised to update regularly, does not show how many people have died at each facility. It is also plagued by apparent omissions and undercounts. For weeks, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been publishing names of group living facilities with COVID-19 cases, without specifying how many people have tested positive at each place. Some of those homes do not appear on the state list. The state list also does not include data from California’s 7,461 residential care facilities.”

The Los Angeles Times further explained that “Dotting the state are nursing homes where the deadly contagion has taken hold. In San Bernardino County, at least 25 people have died, about half of them residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. At least 94 confirmed cases came from a single facility in Yucaipa where 10 residents have died. Four people have died and 38 others have tested positive for the virus at the Kensington assisted living facility in Redondo Beach. More outbreaks have been reported in Orinda, San Jose, Burlingame and San Francisco. At a care center in Hayward, 49 staffers and residents tested positive.”

As the devastating impact of COVID-19 on nursing home patients (and staff) comes into sharper focus, many jurisdictions have taken steps to alleviate the crisis and reduce the number of deaths by requiring special protections for nursing home patients.

I believe that our nursing home patients and staff in Irvine also need and deserve these special protections.

Accordingly, at the next Irvine City Council meeting, I will propose that City of Irvine staff determine the protocols relating to preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are currently being followed at nursing home facilities within the City; what additional measures and protocols other jurisdictions are now requiring to protect residents and staff in the subject facilities, and that City staff make recommendations regarding actions to be considered and taken by the City Council to provide additional special protections for nursing home residents and staff during the COVID-19 crisis.

These additional protections may include:

1) Limiting entry into Licensed Congregate Health Care Facilities;
2) Prohibiting employees who have tested positive for or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from returning to work until having fulfilled CDC Criteria for Return to Work;
3) Suspending communal dining and activities;
4) Providing separate areas and staff for those with COVID-19;
5) Requiring all staff to wear a surgical masks at all times in the facility;
6) Requiring all staff to follow all infection prevention guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC;
7) Requiring all residents and patients to wear a surgical mask or clean face covering when outside their room;
8) Requiring symptom screening for all; and
9) Requiring daily temperature checks for staff, patients, and residents. 

My goal, as with other matters related to preventing the spread of COVID-19, is to ensure that Irvine’s residents and businesses have the most effective and appropriate help from government that we are able to provide, guided first and foremost by the advice of medical and public health professionals.

Please contact the Irvine City Council to voice your support for additional measures to protect our most vulnerable population!

You can contact all of us on the Irvine City Council at citycouncil@cityofirvine.org.

Also, because the April 28, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting will be held online, you may make a comment opposing the proposed resolution (Item 5.2) and supporting an order for a moratorium on evictions. Your comment will be part of the official record. 

Submit your comment at: Ecomment on Agenda Item 5.2

Thank you!

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COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.