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10 COVID-19 Deaths at Visalia Nursing Home. Will It Be Evacuated?

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Ten COVID-19 deaths have now been reported at a Valley nursing home and officials say an evacuation is possible.

Redwood Springs Healthcare Center confirmed two additional deaths at the Visalia facility on Thursday. It’s the largest publicly reported nursing home outbreak in California

Evacuation a ‘Worst Case Scenario’

Spokesman Dave Oates told the Associated Press that all patients and staff were being tested at the 176-bed facility. Previously, 106 residents and 50 staff tested positive for COVID-19.

Redwood Springs is receiving staffing support from the county, state and hospitals, said Anita Hubbard, the center’s administrator.

Health authorities are considering evacuating residents as an “absolute worst-case scenario,” Tim Lutz, director of the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, told the Visalia Times-Delta.

Outbreak at 2nd South Valley Nursing Home

A second COVID-19 outbreak was reported Wednesday at Lindsay Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation, located about 13 miles outside of Tulare. Eleven residents at the 99-bed facility have tested positive, the Tulare County Health Department reported on Wednesday.

Tulare County has reported 372 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a total of 17 deaths.

The two nursing homes are among several “hot spots” popping up around the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of the continued need for vigilance against the spread of infection, even as the state begins to consider easing expansive stay-at-home orders.

“We’re still seeing hot spots throughout the state,” Newsom said at his daily briefing. He cited an outbreak of 51 cases at a Valley food distribution facility as another example.

Photo of Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia, California

Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia. (Facebook/Redwood Springs)

Increasing Pressure to Track Nursing Facility Infections

Newsom did not identify the facility. On Tuesday, a worker at a Safeway distribution center in Tracy died after contracting COVID-19, the company said. Safeway has declined to say how many other employees at the facility have tested positive, according to Sacramento television station KXTV.

Outbreaks at nursing homes, like the two in Tulare County, are especially dangerous because many residents are elderly. Many also have existing health conditions and live in close proximity to each other.

U.S. health officials are under increasing pressure to publicly track coronavirus infections and deaths in nursing homes amid criticism they have not been transparent about the scope of outbreaks across the country that have already claimed thousands of lives.

Thirteen people died in an outbreak that infected nearly 70 residents and staff at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Alameda County district attorney has launched a criminal investigation into patient deaths at the facility, which in the past has been cited by state regulators for lacking sufficient staff.

After virus cases were discovered at Magnolia Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Riverside, so many staff members failed to show up for work that county officials evacuated residents.

Nursing Home Deaths Top 130 in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles County, the state’s largest, 133 people who lived in nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities died from the virus. Health officials said they account for about a third of the county’s virus deaths.

Newsom previously said the state would train and deploy 600 nurses to support compliance with COVID-19 guidance at the state’s nearly 8,700 skilled nursing and residential care facilities. Visits to the facilities already have been sharply restricted.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)