A skilled nursing home in Santa Cruz County is suffering a severe outbreak of COVID-19, with 61 people having tested positive and nine dead, a county health spokeswoman said Thursday.
Of the 61 infected at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, nine were staff. All those who died were residents and ranged in age from their early 70s to 90s, said Corinne Hyland, a public information officer for the county Department of Public Health. The facility is licensed for 95 beds.
Hyland said the facility had been following state guidelines for employee testing, which exposed the outbreak. The center reported the outbreak to the county on Sept. 17 after a resident tested positive. An outbreak at a nursing home is defined as an infection in one resident. Visitors have been barred during the pandemic, she said.
“It spread pretty quickly,” Hyland said. “Unfortunately, this is a very vulnerable population.”
Dr. David Ghilarducci, deputy health officer for Santa Cruz County, said the county’s public health staff was working closely with the facility to control the outbreak.
Santa Cruz County health officials have been visiting the facility daily to review protocols on isolation, quarantine, testing and screening, and to respond to requests for more resources.
Officials from the California Department of Public Health have made multiple visits to the facility to assess the situation and make recommendations, and the California National Guard also is providing help, the county said.
Because many nursing home employees work in more than one facility, the county immediately alerted other homes of the outbreak, Hyland said. She added that the county was tracing the contacts of the infected.
“This is really a large outbreak,” Hyland said. “We haven’t seen this sort of thing in our county until now.”
The Watsonville center’s website has reported previous infections in the past but in small numbers. The website indicates that past infections have been among employees.
Gerald E. Hunter, the facility’s administrator, said on the website there were 23 residents and four staff members who were positive for the virus on Oct. 5. He said the county’s numbers reflected the total infected since the outbreak started.
“Each day we evaluate all of our residents following CDPH and County of Santa Cruz guidelines to determine whom meets the criteria to be transferred out of the unit,” said Hunter on the website. He did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.