Coronavirus outbreaks ravage nursing homes again, even after Newsom safety measures

After a steady slide in the statewide number of new coronavirus infections at skilled nursing homes, facilities in Santa Cruz and Shasta Counties are grappling with severe outbreaks, with several dozen people at both places testing positive and residents dying of COVID-19.

a man walking across Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay: The Sundial Bridge in Redding. Coronavirus outbreaks have recently hit nursing homes in that Northern California city and also in Santa Cruz County. (William Koplitz / Getty Images)

© (William Koplitz / Getty Images)
The Sundial Bridge in Redding. Coronavirus outbreaks have recently hit nursing homes in that Northern California city and also in Santa Cruz County. (William Koplitz / Getty Images)

The outbreaks raise questions on whether a May directive by state health officials, requiring regular testing of nursing home residents and staff, is being comprehensively implemented. Some watchdogs fear another spike could be in the offing at facilities that care for some of California’s most frail and vulnerable.

“Something is terribly wrong because they shouldn’t be having deaths,” Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus at UC San Francisco who studies skilled nursing facilities, said Thursday. “There is a breakdown.”

At the Watsonville-Post Acute Center in Santa Cruz County, 61 people, including nine staff members, have tested positive since mid-September. Nine residents, whose ages ranged from the low 70s to 90s, have died, county health spokeswoman Corinne Hyland said Tuesday.

The facility is licensed for 95 beds.

In Redding, the Windsor Redding Care Center, another skilled nursing home, also is coping with an outbreak. Sixty residents and 20 staff members have contracted the virus, and seven have died from COVID-19, said Shasta County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Kerri Schuette.

Patricia McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said new California testing requirements imposed on nursing homes were being followed only sporadically and with little follow-up enforcement from the state.

In addition, rapid antigen tests the federal government has sent to nursing homes recently have been “absolutely useless,” she said. They produce

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Gov. Newsom signs bill that gives one-year exemption for newspapers to keep carriers as contractors

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation into law that gives newspapers a one-year extension before they must comply with another law increasing labor protections for delivery workers.

The bill, AB 323, allows newspapers to continue classifying their paper carriers as independent contractors through Jan. 1, 2022. The governor signed the measure on Wednesday.

The law continues a temporary exemption put in place last year in response to enactment of AB 5. That 2018 landmark legislation gives so-called “gig workers” eligibility for benefits typically reserved for full-time employees such as overtime, sick leave and unemployment pay. But it has been under attack since passage.

Without the extension for newspapers, the distribution costs for The Press Democrat would have increased 60% and could have forced delivery cutbacks to rural parts of the North Coast, said Steve Falk, CEO of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat and other regional publications.

On Sept. 4, Newsom had signed into law AB 2257, which provides greater carve-outs from AB 5 by removing workers such as freelance writers, editors, photographers and newspaper cartoonists from the landmark law.

The California News Publishers Association, which represents more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers, plan to work with lawmakers next year to reach a long-term solution regarding paper delivery personnel, said Chuck Champion, president and CEO. To treat news carriers as full-time workers rather than contractors would be quite costly for newspaper companies and could cause many more papers statewide to reduce news coverage or fold, publishers have said.

His group needs to do a better job of educating legislators on the importance of the exemption given that print editions are still significant revenue for local newspapers even with younger readers who consume news digitally, Champion said. “It’s critical. It continues to service a segment of our community, often

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Newsom signs law requiring skilled nursing homes to report disease-related deaths within 1 day, after COVID-19 pandemic ravaged facilities

With skilled nursing homes hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday signed a law requiring those facilities in California to report disease-related deaths to health authorities within 24 hours during declared emergencies.

The law was written in response to concerns that health agencies were slow to respond to outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities because they did not receive timely information about them.

So far, more than 5,630 residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities in the state have died from COVID-19 — 36% of California’s fatalities from the coronavirus. The percentage “reveals the significant weaknesses in the reporting system currently required by these facilities,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), who introduced the legislation.

COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred at some 1,164 skilled nursing homes and 379 assisted-living facilities in California, according to the state Department of Public Health. The spread at such facilities is alarming to health officials, who note that the virus is especially deadly for the elderly and for those with underlying medical problems.

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