Authorities investigate coronavirus outbreaks at local nursing homes

Los Angeles County officials are investigating coronavirus outbreaks at 11 area nursing homes, where elderly residents with underlying health conditions are among the most vulnerable to the deadly new pathogen, it was reported Tuesday. 

That's nearly quadruple the number of nursing home outbreaks county officials had announced on Friday. The county defines an outbreak as three or more cases involving residents or staff at a facility.  

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The county's Department of Public Health was also investigating reports of at least one suspected coronavirus infection at seven additional nursing homes as of Monday afternoon.  Of the county's 44 deaths from coronavirus, six were nursing home residents, the Los Angeles Times reported.  

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The county released the names of all 11 homes with outbreaks, including Kensington Assisted Living in Redondo Beach, Alameda Care Center in Burbank and Silverado Beverly Place in Los Angeles.

"Our investigation teams work with managers at each site to review implementation of infection control, quarantine and isolation protocols," a Department of Public Health spokesperson said in an email to The Times.  

COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in nursing homes with terrifying speed across the country, with catastrophic potential. One of the first hotspots in the U.S. was at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, where two-thirds of the residents and 47 workers fell ill, and 37 people died.  

Families with loved ones in nursing homes should seriously consider pulling them out if it's at all feasible to care for them at home, said Charlene Harrington, professor emeritus at UC San Francisco's School of Nursing. the Times reported 

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"The risk of exposure is so overwhelming," said Harrington, who has studied nursing homes since the 1980s. "It's a terrible concern."

 Also concerning to nursing home administrators and physicians is guidance from federal and some state regulators to accept new residents and those returning from hospitals without proof that they are virus-free.   Hospitals in New York are so burdened for space that regulators there ordered nursing homes to take in discharged patients even if they are COVID-19 positive.   

Those nursing homes will "do their best, they'll try to contain it, but people will run out of [protective equipment], caregivers will get sick, and people will die,'' said D avid A. Nace, clinical chief of geriatric medicine for University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. New York will have killed people. There's no way to soften that statement. It's such a vulnerable population."