Long-term facilities across the country continue to battle coronavirus cases as healthcare workers and county officials struggle to contain the disease among those who are most vulnerable.
While health officials say social distancing has been effective in shutting down unnecessary communal interactions, saying it has slowed the infection rate and deaths from the disease, elderly or nursing home residents like those inside the South Pasadena Care Center in the 900 block of Mission Street live in close proximity to each other and must rely on the healthcare system and nursing home professionals for protection from the disease.
A report in the Wall Street Journal last week estimates that more than 10,000 in assisted living residences in the U.S. have died from the virus.
“It’s unprecedented times that we’re dealing with,” Cory Kallheim, vice president of Legal Affairs and Social Accountability for LeadingAge, an organization representing non-profit nursing homes and assisted living facilities, told NPR. “So it puts (nursing homes) in a really, really difficult spot. They’re doing the best they can in the difficult circumstances.”
On a blog posted by the City of South Pasadena, local Fire Chief Paul Riddle reports his fire department continues to be in communications with the administrator of the South Pasadena Care Center regarding the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 patients at the facility.
County health officials conducted an inspection of the nursing home facility on Wednesday and a report indicated the nursing home “is in fact following LA County Health protocols,” noted Riddle. “The most urgent need in ensuring that the staff has enough PPE’s (personal protective equipment) to safely treat patients. Efforts are underway to try and secure additional supplies of PPE’s for the facility.”
In the blog, Riddle said that the fire department personnel will continue to monitor the situation at the South Pasadena Care Center.
South Pasadena Mayor Bob Joe is among those who recognize that skilled nursing facilities (SNF) throughout the state and county continue to be challenged by increasing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 patients. “The close contact required to care for residents increases the risk of spread of the virus,” explained Joe. “Our SNF is faced with these same challenges. All available city and county resources are being called upon to ensure the residents of the facility are receiving the required care and that the staff is properly protected. We will continue to monitor the situation and support efforts as necessary. My thoughts and prayers are with all that have been affected.”
South Pasadena City Council member Michael Cacciotti said his heart goes out to the individuals and families of the residents and dedicated caregivers at the facility as the city’s first responders work in close coordination and cooperation with county and state officials assisting in the outbreak.
“We all pray and hope for their full recovery from this dangerous virus,” he offered. “With respect to the impact on our first responders, I have full confidence in Fire Chief Paul Riddle who has assured the city Council that our department is working closely with our neighboring fire departments in Area C (mainly San Gabriel Valley cities) to support each other and provide mutual aid in responding to this health pandemic so that all of our communities are adequately covered.”
Riddle has indicated to Cacciotti and others on the council that the risk of the disease to first responders, and the community is minimal as the facility staff at SPCC are following proper safety protocols.
“So that all of our communities in our region and state are better prepared to deal with this health crisis when it happens again, I will propose, as I did at the last City Council meeting, that, at the federal level and now the state level to we establish a bipartisan commissions to examine the crisis,” said Cacciotti. “Specifically, how we can better coordinate, fund and plan our response to future pandemics. We really need to examine and address the failures in our federal government’s response, including adequate provision of PPE’s, ventilators, early and adequate testing, etc. Moreover, there should be specific delineation of responsibilities to responding to this pandemic at the federal, state, county and local levels of government. Tens of thousands of Americans, many from our most vulnerable populations, and each one deserving of respect and dignity, did not have to die, I believe, if our national government had acted swiftly, decisively and with appropriate measures to contain and mitigate the threat caused by this deadly virus.”
Cacciotti hopes due consideration is given to bringing back the directorate of Global Health Security and Bio-defense in the National Security Council that was established to address this specific type of pandemic. “It is my understanding that from January 2019 – October 2019, the federal agencies in cooperation with some state officials actually engaged in strategic modeling and exercises planning for exactly the type of pandemic caused by the coronavirus,” he said. “Why weren’t those lessons and strategies quickly implemented by our federal government when this virus was first identified by our national and health intelligence agencies?”
South Pasadena City Councilmember Dr. Marina Khubesrian sends her deepest condolences “to the families and loved ones of the three South Pasadena residents living at the South Pasadena Care Center who passed so suddenly,” she said “It’s a sad day for us. I want to thank the caregivers and employees at the Care Center who show up to work to care for their residents. Our COVID-19 Crisis Team will continue to do everything we can to make sure these front line care workers have adequate PPE and sanitation supplies to slow the spread of the virus and keep themselves and their residents as safe as possible.”
Added Diana Mahmud, a South Pasadena councilmember: “It’s notable that all or almost all county-reported cases of COVID-19 in our city are traced to the SPCC. Residents at SPCC are there because they need a fairly high degree of personal care and are located in close proximity to one another. Experts have told us those conditions are much more conducive to the spread of COVID-19 than in households where residents don’t come into contact with many people and are observing social distancing when they do.”
Like Riddle, Mahmud confirmed that county health department personnel conducted an investigation of SPCC on Wednesday and “found no violations of health orders, and that the county is to provide additional, critically needed PPE to staff to protect them and SPCC residents,” she said. “I can only hope and pray – and encourage our South Pas residents that are so inclined to do the same – that all those currently diagnosed with COVID-19 make a complete recovery, and that our residents continue to be vigilant about observing the ‘Safer At Home’ order issued by the county. Also, this is a good opportunity to express our community’s gratitude to all those men and women of our community who bravely continue to provide essential services. You are our heroes.”