Santa Clara Co. COVID-19 cases at nursing homes jump, observers want to know which facilities are impacted

Santa Clara County is reporting increases in the number of COVID-19 cases in skilled, independent, and assisted living facilities. County officials say this follows an overall rise in cases countywide.

“The county is taking very seriously any cases or suspected cases in a congregate setting. Places where people are living beyond a single household,” Health Dept. expert Dr. Sarah Rudman said Apr. 10.

To date, there are 300 cases, 40 hospitalizations, and 15 deaths due to coronavirus. But Santa Clara County officials will not identify which care facilities are reporting fatalities.

“I think that’s making the situation worse. Because some nursing homes are trying to cover-up that they have the virus,” said Dr. Charlene Harrington.

A former UC San Francisco nursing professor, Harrington also once headed the state licensing program for nursing homes. She says transparency in nursing home COVID-19 cases protects staff and informs families.

In Alameda County, Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hayward is under investigation by the county district attorney. This, since 13 residents have died due a coronavirus outbreak. Alameda County is providing daily updates on the number of deaths, and where they take place. Santa Clara County does not.

“People have a right to transparency. And it’s important to be able to make people be able to protect themselves,” Harrington said.

Experts say the fact there are 15 deaths broken down only by facility type, not name, isn’t an indication of wrong-doing or code violations.

“The coronavirus is socially and politically agnostic. Any organization is liable to the ravaging effects of the virus. So no matter how well-run an organization is, the interjection of that virus can wreak havoc,” said Dr. Mark Schwartz, an adjunct professor who specializes in biotech at San Jose State University.

Still, some say the more information is publically available, the more the public can protect itself and loved ones during this pandemic.

“I really think each county needs to release the names of the facility where the virus is,” said Harrington. “If people aren’t protecting themselves properly, and they don’t know the virus is actually in a home, then they’re not gonna be as careful.”