Coronavirus Is Killing SoCal Nursing Home Workers

Bixby Knolls Towers in Long Beach is among the skilled nursing homes identified by the California Dept. of Health as having confirmed COVID-19 cases among both staff and residents. (Megan Garvey / LAist)

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Eight of the 11 health care workers who have died in Los Angeles County of COVID-19 worked in skilled nursing facilities.

County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer reported the dire statistics at her Monday briefing.

Nearly 2,000 health care workers and first responders have contracted COVID-19, most of them through their jobs, Ferrer said.

A new health order announced by Ferrer last week requires all nursing home staff and residents to be tested for the virus, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms.

Today, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will vote on a motion giving the county Department of Health Services seven days to develop a "high-level strategic plan" for carrying out nursing home testing.

In all, 423 residents of institutional settings have died from COVID-19 in L.A. County — 45% of all coronavirus deaths. Most lived in skilled nursing facilities, according to public health officials.

CALL IN THE NATIONAL GUARD

Some nursing homes have faced staffing shortages their workers test positive or fear coming to work.

The California National Guard has been brought in to plug staffing holes at five nursing homes in L.A. County, said public affairs director Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma.

"These medical support teams are made up of about eight service members and include the lead service member, which is a doctor or a physician's assistant or a registered nurse, and then they are supported by our army or airforce medics," Shiroma said.

Each team also has two support service members to assist with administrative duties.

Shiroma said service members are only working at skilled nursing facilities in L.A. County but can help in other parts of the state if needed.

"It's not a military operation," Shiroma said. "So the soldiers and airmen that support this mission fall under the direct supervision of the staff that is there at the existing facility."

The National Guard is also assisting with food distribution and other coronavirus-related needs across California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to tally the number of health care workers infected with COVID-19 across the country.