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Dozens infected, nine dead in COVID-19 outbreak at a Santa Cruz County nursing home

Coronavirus has infected dozens of residents, with nine dead, at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif., in Santa Cruz County.
Coronavirus has infected dozens of residents, with nine dead, at a nursing home in Watsonville, Calif., in Santa Cruz County.

A skilled nursing home in Santa Cruz County is suffering a severe outbreak of COVID-19, with 61 people having tested positive and nine dead, a county health spokeswoman said Thursday.

Of the 61 infected at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, nine were staff. All those who died were residents and ranged in age from their early 70s to 90s, said Corinne Hyland, a public information officer for the county Department of Public Health. The facility is licensed for 95 beds.

Hyland said the facility had been following state guidelines for employee testing, which exposed the outbreak. The center reported the outbreak to the county on Sept. 17 after a resident tested positive. An outbreak at a nursing home is defined as an infection in one resident. Visitors have been barred during the pandemic, she said.

“It spread pretty quickly,” Hyland said. “Unfortunately, this is a very vulnerable population.”

Dr. David Ghilarducci, deputy health officer for Santa Cruz County, said the county’s public health staff was working closely with the facility to control the outbreak.

Santa Cruz County health officials have been visiting the facility daily to review protocols on isolation, quarantine, testing and screening, and to respond to requests for more resources.

Officials from the California Department of Public Health have made multiple visits to the facility to assess the situation and make recommendations, and the California National Guard also is providing help, the county said.

Because many nursing home employees work in more than one facility, the county immediately alerted other homes of the outbreak, Hyland said. She added that the county was tracing the contacts of the infected.

“This is really a large outbreak,” Hyland said. “We haven’t seen this sort of thing in our county until now.”

The Watsonville center’s website has reported previous infections in the past but in small numbers. The website indicates that past infections have been among employees.

Gerald E. Hunter, the facility’s administrator, said on the website there were 23 residents and four staff members who were positive for the virus on Oct. 5. He said the county’s numbers reflected the total infected since the outbreak started.

“Each day we evaluate all of our residents following CDPH and County of Santa Cruz guidelines to determine whom meets the criteria to be transferred out of the unit,” said Hunter on the website. He did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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Latest Santa Cruz Case Count; County Releases Halloween Guidance

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, CA — Haunted houses, large parties and indoor mazes should be a no-go in the era of the coronavirus, Santa Cruz County officials announced Monday.

And even if your Halloween costume comes with a mask, you should still wear a face mask, officials said in a news release jointly issued by Bay Area health officers. Maybe this year is the one to focus on decorations and virtual costume contests.

The public should keep a close eye out for COVID-19 symptoms after the holiday — especially three to seven days afterward. Anyone who experiences symptoms can learn how to get tested in Santa Cruz County here.

“These holidays are no different than the rest of the year when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19,” health officials wrote.

Officials gave guidance on which seasonal activities are lower-risk, moderate-risk, high-risk and very-high risk. Here’s the official word on Halloween and Día de los Muertos traditions, according to the county:

Lower Risk

“Stay home, keep it small.”

  • Carving pumpkins, scavenger hunt trick-or-treat with members of your household

  • Outdoor pumpkin patch visit (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Carving pumpkins outside with very small group (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Virtual costume contest

  • Decorating your home

  • Creating in-home ofrendas

  • Preparing traditional recipes and playing music at home to honor loved ones who have died

  • Vehicle-based gatherings, such as drive-through attractions or drive-in movies

Moderate Risk

“If you must.”

  • One-way trick-or-treating, with individually wrapped goodie bags for guests to grab and go at the end of a driveway (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Small outdoor movie night or costume parade (while masked and maintaining six feet of distance from others)

  • Themed outdoor dining

Higher Risk

“Please avoid.”

  • Traditional trick-or-treating, which brings people from various households together

  • Rural fall festival outside of your community

Very High Risk

“Not permitted by state and local orders.”

  • Crowded parties, whether indoors or outdoors, are linked to many Bay Area COVID-19 cases

  • Sharing, eating, drinking, talking loudly, singing with people outside of your household

  • Haunted houses

  • Indoor mazes

  • Trunk-or-treat, with candy handed out from cars in parking lots

There have been 2,394 cases of the coronavirus reported in Santa Cruz County as of Tuesday morning, including 10 confirmed deaths and 2,082 recovered cases. Here’s the breakdown by location:

  • Aptos: 103

  • Ben Lomond: 18

  • Boulder Creek: 18

  • Capitola: 63

  • Felton: 24

  • Freedom: 128

  • Santa Cruz: 446

  • Scotts Valley: 56

  • Soquel: 63

  • Watsonville: 1,348

  • Under investigation: 103

  • Unincorporated: 24

This article originally appeared on the Santa Cruz Patch

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