California to send 600 nurses, more supplies to care facilities grappling with COVID-19 infections and deaths

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California is sending 600 nurses and additional medical supplies to nursing homes and assisted living centers grappling with cases of COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

The USNS Mercy docked at the Port of Los Angeles and seven care facilities will be used by state health officials as the nurses help local facilities identify and quarantine COVID-19 patients, the governor said, giving few details on how these efforts would be carried out.

“We’re trying to decompress that entire system,” Newsom said.

Facilities that have become so-called hot spots — reporting multiple infections or deaths — have been sent another 200,000 sets of gloves and 200,000 sets of masks, Newsom said. He described those shipments as being given given in addition to other state assistance.

The state is also providing new guidelines on issues such as infection control, Newsom said.

Care facilities such as nursing homes and convalescent hospitals remain a major source of concern as deaths and infections reported among their residents and staff continue to rise statewide.

In Los Angeles County, they have been linked to dozens of deaths. Within the past two weeks, the number of institutional settings with reported infections — from assisted living facilities to jails — has jumped from 25 to 159 in the county.

Currently, 28% of all COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County are linked to such settings, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s health director. In recent days, the vast majority of deaths in institutional settings have been among residents at nursing homes and other care facilities.

These residents are often older or having underlying conditions, making them more vulnerable to the virus. But health officials have become especially concerned about so-called hot spots where multiple infections and deaths have surfaced.

State health officials are monitoring 191 care facilities across the state where patients and staff have tested positive — a total of 1,266 infections have been linked to such facilities.

In California, the number of people who have tested positive topped 20,000 and 552 patients have died as of Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times’ database, collecting data from health agencies.

Meanwhile, the state remains under a lockdown that has shuttered businesses and led to millions filing for unemployment in recent weeks.

Newsom said the state will employ restaurant workers through a food delivery program for seniors. He said it will be assisted by FEMA but did not give other details about how it would operate.

Amid holidays such as Easter and Passover, Newsom has joined other leaders in cautioning residents against breaking social distancing guidelines.

Federal health officials have credited stay-at-home orders in California and Washington with curbing the spread of the virus after those states reported some of the earliest cases in the U.S.

“This is point of pride for Californians,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of health and human services. “But this line could easily see an upward slope … if we lose the focus on social distancing and staying at home.”

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