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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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Coronavirus outbreak at Vermont apple orchard sickens dozens of migrant workers

An outbreak of the novel coronavirus at an apple orchard in Vermont has sickened dozens, according to a local report.

The outbreak has been reported among migrant workers at Champlain Orchards, an apple orchard in Shoreham. As of Monday, at least 26 workers had tested positive for COVID-19, said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, the VTDigger reported.

At least one worker has been hospitalized, while the others are largely asymptomatic, according to a local report.

At least one worker has been hospitalized, while the others are largely asymptomatic, according to a local report.
(iStock)

“The outbreak is contained to the farm, and I want to emphasize, there is no known risk to the public,” he said, noting that those who visited the farm stand or picked apples at the orchard were not considered to be at risk, as the orchard followed state health guidelines and the workers did not come into close contact with any visitors.

The outbreak was reported among workers who had traveled to the state in September from Jamaica under the H-2A visa program, the outlet reported. The first positive case among the workers was reported on Oct. 1, toward the end of the workers’ 14-day quarantine.

CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK AT NORTH CAROLINA HAIR SALON TIED TO AT LEAST 1 DEATH

The orchard was subsequently closed and the state health officials were notified. The workers have been tested at least twice following the first positive case.

OKLAHOMA CORONAVIRUS HOSPITALIZATIONS HIT RECORD HIGH FOR STATE

At least one worker has been hospitalized, while the others are largely asymptomatic, according to the VTDigger.

“I have seen various facilities, businesses, travelers ethnic groups, and other groups face stigma over the course of this pandemic, and I call on Vermonters again to focus on the disease, and how to keep it at bay where we can, rather than creating fear or rumors,” Levine said when urging residents against stigmatizing those who have tested positive, per the VTDigger.

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Dozens of animals susceptible, study suggests

Dozens of animals who are 'regularly in contact with people' worldwide 'may be susceptible to the coronavirus', research suggests. (Getty Images)
Dozens of animals who are ‘regularly in contact with people’ worldwide ‘may be susceptible to the coronavirus’, research suggests. (Getty Images)

Dozens of animal species worldwide may be susceptible to the coronavirus, research suggests.

The previously unknown infection is thought to have started in bats, before “jumping” into humans, possibly via pangolins.

Concerns were raised early in the outbreak when a dog in Hong Kong tested “weak positive” for the coronavirus, however, experts stressed there was “no evidence pet animals can be a source of infection”.

Read more: Long COVID patient ‘not the same person she was’

A tiger in a New York zoo also hit the headlines when it caught the virus, even developing a tell-tale dry cough.

When it comes to animals catching the coronavirus, experts have previously warned against “mass hysteria”. Scientists from University College London (UCL) have since reported, however, 26 creatures that are “regularly in contact with people” may be susceptible to the infection.

Scientists from University College London identified sheep as being at-risk of infection. (Stock, Getty Images)
Scientists from University College London identified sheep as being at-risk of infection. (Stock, Getty Images)

The coronavirus enters cells when its so-called spike protein interacts with a receptor called ACE2.

Based on existing evidence, the UCL team believe it is unlikely the virus could infect a species without binding to ACE2.

The scientists therefore investigated ACE2 mutations across 215 animals. These mutations mean the receptor differs from the human version, “reducing the stability of the binding complex” between the virus’ spike protein and the host’s receptor.

Results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggest that in animals like sheep and great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos – the virus’ spike protein and the species’ ACE2 receptor “would be able to bind together just as strongly as they do when the virus infects people”.

Read more: How to swab a baby, toddler or child for coronavirus at home

The scientists stressed, however, that for some species this is just a hypothesis. Sheep, for example, have not been studied for infection risk specifically, just spike protein and ACE2 binding.

“We wanted to look beyond just the animals that had been studied experimentally, to see which animals might be at risk of infection, and would warrant further investigation and possible monitoring,” said lead author Professor Christine Orengo.

“The animals we identified may be at risk of outbreaks that could threaten endangered species or harm the livelihoods of farmers.

“The animals might also act as reservoirs of the virus, with the potential to re-infect humans later on, as has been documented on mink farms.”

These minks are thought to have been infected by farm workers. In a few cases, the minks have transmitted the virus to other people, in the first reported cases of animal-to-human transmission.

Watch: The Bronx zoo tiger that tested positive for coronavirus

When looking at the risk among different types of animals, the scientists predicted most birds, fish and reptiles do not appear capable of catching the coronavirus.

Among mammals, however, most of the species they analysed

New Jersey Veterans Homes Likely Failed to Acknowledge Covid-19 as Cause in Dozens of Deaths, Officials Say

A state-run nursing home for veterans in New Jersey failed to attribute nearly 40% of its likely Covid-19 deaths to the virus, according to the state’s own Department of Health.

The Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home, in Edison, N.J., attributed 62 deaths to the new coronavirus on the website of the state’s veterans’ affairs agency. But a Department of Health spokeswoman, Nancy Kearney, said late Wednesday that an additional 39 people probably died from the virus at the facility during a wave of infections there.

Another state-run veterans home, in Paramus, N.J., also likely had more Covid-19 deaths than the total it attributed to the virus, Ms. Kearney said. The likely undercount at the two facilities, among the deadliest in the state for the virus, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The findings show how publicly reported nursing home mortality figures can fail to reflect the true toll the pandemic has taken on the facilities, which are home to some of the most virus-vulnerable people in the country.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Kryn Westhoven, in a statement released Wednesday, said his agency “mourns each and every veteran that passes away in our Memorial homes…. Much like other long-term care facilities across the state and country, Covid-19 created unprecedented circumstances and demands within our veterans memorial homes. During this time, all deaths were reported to the Department of Health.”

The New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, another state-run home for former members of the U.S. military, originally reported 81 Covid-19 deaths.



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timothy a. clary/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The two state-run nursing homes have faced a barrage of criticism from families of deceased residents. The Paramus facility, which initially reported more deaths, has in particular come under fire.

In the early days of the pandemic, testing wasn’t widely available to residents at many facilities. A large number of deaths at Menlo in April, the peak of that facility’s outbreak, were attributed to other causes, such as pneumonia, even as the death toll soared above usual levels.

The Paramus facility reported 81 deaths linked to Covid-19. The health department’s Ms. Kearney said an additional eight patients at that facility probably died from the virus.

The state counted as probable deaths those that weren’t clearly explained by another cause where patients had Covid-19 symptoms, or autopsies found signs of Covid-19, Ms. Kearney said in an email, as well as some other types of deaths.

Veterans agency records viewed by the Journal show nearly 100 people died at the Menlo facility in April alone. That’s about as many as the facility typically loses in a year, historical records show.

Mr. Westhoven also said in an earlier interview that the department only counted deaths when a death certificate expressly listed Covid-19 as the cause. That accounting missed some cases where residents tested positive but still didn’t have Covid-19 listed on their death certificates.

William Hefele, a Navy veteran and Menlo resident, was hospitalized in early April