Nevada County nursing and assisted living facilities manage COVID-19 cases

Some Nevada County skilled nursing and assisted living facilities have been impacted by additional cases of COVID-19 in residents and staff in recent weeks.

As of Thursday, Nevada County has reported seven COVID-19-related deaths, five of which have been confirmed to be associated with skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.

Atria regional vice president Aron Alexander said through a spokesperson Wednesday that a total of 14 residents and 14 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Atria Grass Valley.

“Twenty-three residents and staff members have recovered from COVID-19 and are doing well,” he wrote in an email. “Four of these residents have sadly passed away.”

The most recent COVID-19 death of a resident occurred over a month ago, and according to Alexander, the last time a resident tested positive was over four weeks ago. It’s been over six weeks since a staff member tested positive.

“In each instance, we informed residents, families, and employees, as well as state and local health officials,” he said.

According to Alexander, all Atria Grass Valley staff and residents were tested three times in August, in addition to weekly staff testing. He said groups of residents and staff continue to be tested on a biweekly basis.

State records show that Eskaton Grass Valley has had fewer than 11 cases of COVID-19 in residents, and fewer than 11 cases in staff.

Eskaton Senior Vice President Betsy Donovan wrote in an email Wednesday that the facility had five residents and six staff members isolating at that time due to having tested positive for COVID-19.

One resident, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died Sunday, according to Donovan.

She said that, per the Department of Social Services requirement, 10% of all staff are tested every two weeks unless there is a positive case, in which case all residents and staff are tested every week until there are two consecutive weeks of all negative results.

She said the facility’s COVID-19 precautions, established in March based on requirements from local and state health agencies, remain in place and are only modified in response to new information or screening questions put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At Spring Hill Manor Rehabilitation and Convalescent Hospital in Grass Valley, one case of COVID-19 was confirmed in a staff member last week, according to Spring Hill administrator Diana Haines. She said this has been the only case in staff or residents at this facility.

Haines said that, following notice of the positive test, all other staff and residents were tested last week — which resulted in no additional positive results — and would be tested again this week.

The individual who tested positive was instructed to quarantine until 10 days following the date they were tested. “The person who was identified was not a caregiver,” said Haines, explaining that this individual had limited contact with residents while they were working at the facility.

Beth Lewis, infection preventionist at Golden Empire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Grass Valley, said one resident and three staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, although she said this does not accurately reflect how many have contracted the disease.

In late July, a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, self-isolated for two weeks, and returned to work at Golden Empire. Lewis said that, in response to that positive result, all residents and staff were tested, resulting in one resident and two additional staff members testing positive at that time.

However, according to Lewis, only one person — a staff member — tested positive within a day of the initial positive result, upon being tested through a different laboratory.

She said both staff members who were determined to have contracted COVID-19 have recovered, and precautions remain in place at the facility, including a 14-day quarantine for any newly admitted residents and requiring that visits be held outdoors, with masks.

At Crystal Ridge Care Center, administrator Jeff Watters said through a spokesperson Wednesday that a total of two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at the center. One has recovered, and the other is currently self-isolating at home.

According to Watters, both cases were detected during regular surveillance testing — which he said is being conducted weekly on all residents and staff — and neither exhibited symptoms before testing positive. He added that staff, residents, and family members were notified in each of these instances.

He said staff and essential visitors continue to be screened before entering, patient conditions are monitored frequently, and disinfection procedures have been increased. “We established these practices six months ago per CDC, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, California Department of Public Health, and county Health and Human Services guidelines,” he said. “We will continue them indefinitely.”

COUNTY OFFICIALS RESPOND

“Our Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet has been working very closely with these facilities to prevent or limit large outbreaks and protect these populations,” said Nevada County administrative analyst Taylor Wolfe in an email Thursday.

She said local facilities have been made aware of CDC guidelines regarding COVID-positive personnel working in a facility during their 10-day isolation period.

“These facilities are responsible for adhering to these guidelines to protect the residents that live within their facilities,” said Wolfe.

The CDC guidelines include criteria for facilities to determine if their health care staff may return to work during a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 “if staff shortages continue despite other mitigation strategies.” Considerations include the staff member’s symptoms, amount of time since testing positive, and degree and nature of patient or resident interaction required for their role.

“During an outbreak, Nevada County Public Health makes recommendations and asks for assistance and consultation from (the California Department of Public Health Healthcare Associated Infection program) when necessary,” she said. “Additionally, in the area of prevention, our Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program convenes a Health Care Coalition where members such as (skilled nursing facilities) and assisted living facilities work together on emergency preparedness.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for . She can be reached at [email protected]

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