11 dead as California senior facility fights second coronavirus outbreak since July

©The Sacramento Bee

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. - NIAID/NIAID/TNS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A skilled nursing facility in Northern California has been ravaged by two separate coronavirus outbreaks, with at least 11 residents dead and dozens still sick.

Nearly 100 combined residents and staff at Alderson Convalescent Hospital in Woodland have tested positive for COVID-19 in two waves of infection occurring three months apart, according to Yolo County health officials.

In early July, 17 residents and 10 staff members at the 140-bed facility contracted the respiratory disease, and three of the residents died, Yolo officials said.

After that was mitigated, the county in mid-October announced another outbreak, first reported at 14 residents and four employees. Less than three weeks later, the outbreak has almost quadrupled in size, reaching 57 residents and 13 staff.

At least eight residents have died in this wave, the county said Monday. After reporting in October one death in the new round of cases, Yolo health officials on Monday updated the county’s COVID-19 data dashboard to add seven new fatalities at Alderson, bringing the facility’s all-time total to 11.

A separate dashboard from the California Department of Public Health, tracking COVID-19 activity at state-licensed skilled nursing homes, as of Monday evening reported Alderson’s cumulative death toll one higher at 12. Both the county and state report 74 total resident cases at Alderson since the start of the health crisis, a figure representing more than half the care home’s licensed capacity.

In a daily update to its own website, Alderson wrote that 35 residents and eight staff members still had active coronavirus cases as of Monday. The site does not mention deaths.

Alderson is declining media interviews and inquiries, but it has a dedicated phone line available for residents’ family members to get information regarding their loved ones, according to its website.

The highly contagious coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, is most fatal to older populations and those with existing health conditions. Senior care homes throughout the pandemic have emerged as hot spots, leading to utter devastation at those hit hardest. Stollwood Convalescent Hospital, also in Woodland, suffered 17 deaths, including an employee, after 32 residents and 34 staff at the 48-bed facility tested positive in the spring. Emotionally and financially depleted, Stollwood permanently closed at the end of September.

Multiple large and deadly outbreaks at a single facility, as has happened at Alderson, have been reported much less frequently.

Yolo County, in its mid-October statement upon the start of Alderson’s second outbreak, said county health officials were communicating daily with the facility, which has set up isolation and quarantine units and restricted all in-person visitor access.

Licensed skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, the latter of which also cater to the elderly but offer a lower level of medical care, have accounted for more than 6,000 resident and staff coronavirus deaths in California. That’s just over one-third of the state’s overall death toll, which reached 17,672 in a Monday update from CDPH.

The situation has been worse than the state average in Yolo County, which has had 35 of its 61 reported COVID-19 deaths come at skilled nursing or assisted living facilities, all located in the city of Woodland. Seventeen have died at Stollwood, 11 at Alderson, four at Woodland Residential Services (which is comprised of seven smaller homes) and three at Gloria’s Country Care.

Those four facilities, plus five others with no deaths and single-digit resident infection totals, have combined for 134 resident and 90 staff cases. The county as a whole has reported over 3,300 lab-confirmed infections.

There have been many examples, particularly early in the pandemic, of some of the nation’s worst senior care outbreaks being observed in facilities with poor inspection ratings. That isn’t the case for either Stollwood or Alderson, both of which have the highest possible rating of five stars on the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare website, indicative of excellent inspection track records and overall quality of care.


©2020 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)