‘This is a call to action’: Riverside County urges residents to volunteer to care for nursing home COVID-19 patients

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Riverside County put out a call for volunteers Saturday, urging residents to sign up to care for COVID-19 patients at nursing and assisted living facilities.

The county’s public health officials said they’re calling on residents, especially those with medical expertise, to help the facilities in need of workers.

“This is the call to action. We need medical volunteers willing to take care of patients who are COVID positive,” Dr. Michael Mesisca said, speaking for the county’s health department.

The Riverside University Health System promised to provide full protective equipment to those who volunteer.

“This request goes out to all physicians, both active and retired, nurses, nurse assistants, as well as non-medical volunteers such as office staff or Class A and B drivers. The opportunities vary with some paid openings available,” the county’s public health agency said in a news release.

Officials on Saturday were still working to determine how many volunteers are needed and the number of nursing facilities in need as requests for more staff rolled in from around the county, according to the Shane Reichardt, a spokesman for the county’s Emergency Management Department.

“We’ve had staff shortages at some facilities and we anticipate more,” Reichardt said.

The county’s plea for help comes after dozens of residents had to be evacuated from a Riverside nursing home Wednesday after employees didn’t show up to care for patients for two days in a row, according to health officials.

The facility, Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, had nearly 34 novel coronavirus cases confirmed among its residents. Riverside University Health System and Kaiser Permanente sent 33 licensed vocational and registered nurses to the 90-bed facility and transported 84 residents, Reichardt said.

The residents were taken to different locations, including a federal medical station at the Indio Fairgrounds, a Palm Desert nursing facility, the Riverside University Health System Medical Center and local hospitals, officials said.

Reichardt said several of the patients have since been moved to other locations.

Riverside County had 1,431 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths as of Saturday. Nearly 300 of the county’s known cases were among people 65 and older— a group classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being at higher risk for severe illness, along with those who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities

“This is our moment to come together as a community and help each other,” Fourth District Supervisor Chair V. Manuel Perez said in a written statement.

Riverside County residents interested in signing up to help can submit their application online. Those interested in volunteer positions, some of which are paid, will be prompted to answer questions for a placement and background check before they are contacted, officials said.

Anyone looking for more information on volunteering can call 951-955-9227.

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