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Coronavirus cases surge at some California nursing homes

California nursing home advocates are blasting officials for recommendations to pull elderly from facilities without guidance.

SAN DIEGO — California advocates for nursing homes are demanding that the state do more to protect the population most vulnerable to COVID-19.

It comes as health officials in Los Angeles ask that people consider pulling residents from homes over coronavirus concerns.

In Los Angeles County, Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, said there are now 121 institutional settings -- such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons -- that have had at least one case. Those institutions have had a total of 552 cases and 37 deaths. 

Thirty cases have been reported in jail facilities, although only one involved an inmate, while the others were among staffers.

Almost all of the deaths in institutional settings occurred in nursing homes or assisted living centers. One such facility -- The Kensington in Redondo Beach -- has been particularly hard hit, with four deaths among residents and 22 positive cases among staff and residents. 

Ferrer noted that the Kensington was one of the first institutional settings to report an outbreak.

She said people who have relatives in such nursing facilities may want to consider bringing them home, if they have the ability to care for them.

“I think these kinds of public directives are absurd,” said Executive Director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform Patricia McGinnis.

McGinnis is denouncing health officials for providing what she calls reckless recommendations.

“It’s easier said than done,” she said, adding that testing for coronavirus remains limited—even for the elderly.

“If you were bringing home a relative how do you know whether that person has it because they’re going to test you,” she said.

Coronavirus continues to take a toll on San Diego's senior care facilities, topping 130 cases according to County Public Health Dr. Wilma Wooten.

But county health officials still say they won’t follow L.A.’s recommendations on nursing homes, nor will they release the names of the facilities with covid-19 outbreaks.

And McGiness says that lack of transparency can be devastating for families.

“People find out from the news and from the media,” she said.

She’s calling on the California Department of Public Health, which could not be reached for comment on this story, as well as the governor, to get involved.

“Family members do not even receive notice. They should receive notice,” she said.

Just last week- California regulators ordered nursing homes to accept seniors recovering from or suspected of having coronavirus.

The sweeping order was later refined to make sure certain conditions are met. And more guidance is just what advocates are asking for once again.

“I think it's awful that we are so far behind on this. Particularly because we know that our most vulnerable population,” said McGinnis.

Outbreaks at nursing homes and elder residences have alarmed experts who say those cases could overwhelm the health care system.

RELATED: San Diego County coronavirus deaths rise to 31

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San Diego County health officials are reporting 50 additional cases of COVID-19 and a dozen new deaths -- that's the fewest new cases in nearly two weeks but by far the largest increase in deaths so far. 

The cases in the county now total 1,454 and the number of deaths stands at 31.



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