L.A. County plans to start testing staff members and residents without symptoms of COVID-19 at nursing homes in an attempt to reduce the number of outbreaks that have emerged at these facilities countywide.
Original article written by Nouran Salahieh, with reporting by Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime
Posted and updated April 22, 2020
With a rising number of COVID-19 infections and deaths at nursing facilities being reported,
Los Angeles County intends to test nursing home staff and residents for COVID-19 even if they do not display symptoms in an effort to curb outbreaks that have occurred within these vulnerable facilities countywide. In L.A. County, 40% of coronavirus deaths from respiratory illness have been from residents in institutional settings like nursing homes, while nearly half of the skilled nursing facilities in the county have reported COVID-19 cases. L.A. County has conducted over 90,000 coronavirus tests, 15% of which came out positive, but is now seeking to expand testing further. Testing is essential to curtailing outbreaks because asymptomatic people are still able to spread the coronavirus. While tests were originally only limited to symptomatic people, now the county is opening up testing for asymptomatic essential workers and nursing home staff and residents as well. Officials hope that, by testing people in nursing homes without symptoms, this will give them a chance to immediately isolate those infected in an effort to prevent major outbreaks in these long-term care facilities. Nursing facilities will also be receiving guidance on how to improve infection control from members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. L.A. county just recently distributed 2.8 million masks, 8,000 gowns, 200,000 gloves, and 50,000 face shields among the 300 skilled nursing facilities in the region, depending on the capacity of each facility. In anticipation of a surge in cases, officials across California have been scrambling to open up more hospital beds for treatment and bring in more healthcare workers to the system. While COVID-19 cases continue to level off in L.A. county, new infections are not yet decreasing. Officials predict that the number of daily COVID-19 hospitalizations will remain fairly steady and, therefore, believe that social distancing measures should be maintained for the sake of public safety.