Pillowcase masks and trash bag gowns: California nursing homes face bleak, deadly reality

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Patients are removed from Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside in April 2020 after dozens tested positive for the coronavirus and staffers, afraid for their safety, stopped showing up for shifts.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Patients are removed from Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside in April 2020 after dozens tested positive for the coronavirus and staffers, afraid for their safety, stopped showing up for shifts.(Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The masks are long gone, replaced by face covers fashioned from pillowcases. Cleaning supplies are dwindling. And when Maria Cecilia Lim, a licensed vocational nurse at an Orange County nursing home, needs a sterile gown, she reaches for a raincoat bought off the rack by desperate co-workers.

“This is just one raincoat that we have to keep reusing,” Lim said last week between shifts at the Healthcare Center of Orange County, a 100-bed nursing facility in Buena Park. “A lot of people are using it.”

In thousands of facilities that house California’s elderly and infirm, this escalating scarcity driven by the spread of the coronavirus is forcing nurses and medical assistants on the front lines to employ creativity and pluck to combat a deadly pandemic.

Nursing homes and assisted living centers are fast becoming a locus of outbreaks, driving up mortality rates and straining public health resources.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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