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Almost Half of All COVID-19 Deaths in California Involve Nursing Home Residents

woman in face mask crying because nursing home patients in California are dying of Covid-19


Based on the data from the California Department of Public Health (“DPH”) and Department of Social Services (“DSS”), as of May 13, 2020, there were 73,164 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in California alone. Among them, 3,032 people died. 1,150 resident deaths were at California’s nursing homes. Residents of skilled nursing facilities accounted for 5,971 coronavirus infections in the state.

Just a week prior, on May 7, 2020, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, the DPH and DSS provided the following data for the over 380 California’s elder care institutions (nursing homes and assisted living facilities) that reported coronavirus infections and outbreaks:

  • The total number of facility residents and staff members who were confirmed to be COVID-19 positive exceeded 11,300; and
  • Among those who tested positive, the novel coronavirus killed 1,276 facility residents and staff members.

The above statistical data is deeply disturbing. It shows that nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths in California involve residents of the state’s elder care institutions – predominantly, nursing homes. This data demonstrates the horrific extent to which this deadly virus has been ravaging the state’s elder care institutions.

The above numbers are consistent with the coronavirus statistics involving Los Angeles County. As of May 14, 2020, based on the announcement by the director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, 865 people who died of COVID-19 were residents at “institutional” facilities. This number means that approximately 51% of all coronavirus deaths in Los Angeles County involve institutional residents. The reported institutions include assisted living facilities, nursing homes, treatment centers, shelters, and prisons. Nevertheless, the vast majority of COVID-19 fatalities in Los Angeles County involve residents of nursing homes (skilled nursing facilities).

The L.A. County health officials are being proactive in terms of making efforts to control the outbreaks throughout the county’s nursing homes. In April of 2020, the director of Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Dr. Ferrer, made an announcement that nursing homes were ordered to test all their staff members and residents for coronavirus. The coronavirus testing has to be performed for all residents and staff at the skilled nursing facilities in the county, regardless of the presence of absence of any symptoms. The previous guideline by the L.A. County Public Health Department required testing of only those individuals who were symptomatic. Dr. Ferrer acknowledged it was a mistake to test only those staff members and residents who showed symptoms of an upper respiratory infection.

At Orange County’s elder care institutions, the numbers of positive COVID-19 cases and fatalities continue to rise. As of May 15, 2020, based on the data from the California Department of Public Health, as analyzed by Los Angeles Times, 16 assisted living facilities and nursing homes in Orange County reported coronavirus infections. By the end of April 2020, over 200 residents and over 130 staff members at long-term care institutions in Orange County tested positive for the virus. Unfortunately, Orange County is not being as proactive as Los Angeles County. Only those staff members and residents who “need” the testing (i.e. have symptoms) are being tested.

Based on the report by the Los Angeles Times, elder care experts believe that testing only symptomatic people causes the accounted-for numbers of coronavirus cases at the state’s elder care institutions to be lower than they actually are. The latest scientific studies show that people can be asymptomatic “carriers” of COVID-19. It can take up to 2 weeks (14 days) for an individual who has been infected with the coronavirus to start feeling symptoms. This means nursing home residents and staff members can infect others without feeling sick or showing any signs or symptoms of the virus.

Public health departments throughout California’s counties must test all nursing home and assisted living residents and staff, regardless of whether or not they demonstrate any symptoms. More and more test kits become readily available for long-term care institutions. Today, almost 50% of all California COVID-19 fatalities involve elder care institutions. All counties within the state must follow the lead of Los Angeles County, and must make the testing of all residents and staff mandatory. Otherwise, nursing home fatalities will jump over the 50% mark and will become the predominant cause of coronavirus-related deaths in California.

If the tragically high rate of COVID-19 related deaths at California’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities is caused by the failures to implement and follow infection control precautions, such wrongdoing would constitute elder abuse and neglect on the part of the elder-care institutions.  For more information, please read this firm’s pages on COVID-19 (coronavirus) and nursing home infections.

If you suspect elder neglect related to the failure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please call or fill out an electronic contact form today to request a free consultation. Cherepinskiy Law Firm seeks justice on behalf of the elderly throughout California, including Los Angeles, Orange County, as well as Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties.


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