County details efforts to protect long-term care residents during pandemic

Long-term care facilities have been a particularly troubling hot spot for COVID-19. Given the density of vulnerable individuals, they have also been the source of a rising death toll.

Santa Clara County health leaders recently addressed this concern, and their action to mitigate the virus’ spread.

“Because of the widespread community transmission, it is not unexpected to have cases associated with a long term care facility,” said Evelyn Ho, a county public information officer.

In early April, county health officials issued guidance to long-term care facilities. Those focused mainly on increased testing, limiting movement for residents, and improved infection control.

County staff are also engaged with long-term care facilities before and during COVID-19 outbreaks.

“We are doing things like having a public health nurse assigned to each of the facilities to talk to them on a daily or weekly basis,” said Dr. Elsa Villarino, an Assistant Public Health Officer.

Ho reiterated that the county is also working to minimize transmissions within facilities, or when patients transfer to and from a hospital.

The county is also stepping up with personal protective equipment for facilities and helping where there are staff shortages. Contact tracing is also underway to mitigate viral spread.

“We are in constant communication with the staff of those facilities,” Villarino said.

In mid-April, the county launched a new data dashboard specifically on COVID-19 in these settings.

“We are paying special attention to long-term care facilities because their clients are at higher risk for more severe disease from COVID-19,” Dr. Sara Cody, the County’s Health Officer, said at the time.

As of an update Monday evening, 394 cases are affiliated with long-term care facilities in the county. 56 of those have led to hospitalizations, and 38 long-term care residents have died.