The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on April 23 reported three COVID-19- related deaths in the City of South Pasadena, all at the South Pasadena Care Center at 904 Mission Street. County Health also substantially raised the number of COVID-19 cases in the city by 13, by far the highest one-day increase since the crisis began.
The County reports total city and skilled nursing home cases separately, and there is a discrepancy in the totals it is reporting—51 for the city as a whole and 53 at SPCC. The County had not by deadline responded to a question asking it to clear up the discrepancy, but South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle on April 23 confirmed there are 53 cases, all at SPCC.
County Health reported that 37 of the cases are among residents at SPCC, while 16 are among SPCC staff. SPCC officials did not return multiple calls Wednesday seeking information.
The county data does not make clear whether the deaths are included in, or in addition to, the 53 reported total cases as of Thursday.
In a note Thursday to a subcommittee of the city’s Public Safety Commission and others, Chief Riddle said County Public Health officials sent a task force on Wednesday to SPCC, which sometimes calls itself a nursing home but is licensed as a skilled nursing facility (SNF). He said the task force reported SPCC is following county health protocols and that “contingency plans are also being developed to ensure the residents are properly isolated and cared for.”
At least some South Pasadena City Council officials have been receiving non-public updates on the situation. Second District Councilperson Marina Khubesrian, a licensed physician and surgeon, said SPCC has about 100 residents but has a capacity for up to 200.
State records indicate SPCC has 156 licensed beds.
After receiving dozens of citations and being decertified in 2015, ownership of SPCC was taken over by Elliot Zemel and Yehuda Schmukler. As of June 19, 2019, it has received only one violation since 2015, for which it paid the state a $1,000 fine. During the same period, according to California Department of Public Health data, of the 385 SNFs in Department’s three LA districts, 67 have received only one citation, while 199 had two or more. Zemel’s other California SNFs, Lakeview Terrace and Royal Oak Care Center, did not fare quite as well, each receiving 5 citations and fines totaling $45,700, though the most serious of these are under appeal. Both Lakeview Terrace and Royal Oak have far fewer COVID-19 cases than SPCC.
The Fire Chief said the county announced Wednesday it will be adjusting its testing guidelines for SNFs and begin testing all patients and staff. “This will include asymptotic individuals. Due to the very high person-to-person contact required to care for the residents at SNFs, the risk of transmission is extremely high at these locations.” He noted SNFs have “the added challenge that staff and often times residents tend to be transient in nature, increasing the exposure risk.”
News Editor Bill Glazier contributed to this report
What is a “non-public update”? Updates on the COVID-19 cases (anywhere) in South Pasadena should be regular, public and accurate. Updates only to specific individuals or “sub-committees” does not ensure public trust–or respect.
Information about COVID-19 cases in South Pasadena should be easily found on the city’s website. It is not.