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California Nursing Home Reports 154 Virus Cases, 8 Deaths

FILE - A patient is evacuated from a nursing home in Riverside, California, April 8, 2020. A similar facilty in Visalia, California, on Thursday reported 154 coronavirus virus cases and 8 deaths.

VISALIA, CALIFORNIA — A California nursing home has 154 coronavirus cases and eight residents have died in an outbreak that has prompted authorities to prepare to evacuate residents if adequate staffing can't be maintained.

Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia reported 106 residents and 48 staff members tested positive for the virus. All patients and staff are being tested and the 176-bed facility in the agricultural Central Valley is receiving staffing support from the county, the state and hospitals, said Anita Hubbard, the center's administrator.

The county is prepared to evacuate the home only as an "absolute worst-case scenario," Tim Lutz, director of the Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency, told the Visalia Times Delta.

The outbreak is the latest of many at skilled nursing facilities, which are especially vulnerable to the virus because many residents are elderly with existing health conditions and they live in close proximity to each other.

Thirteen people have 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 that 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.

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

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom 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.

He said state officials are reaching out to facilities to assess their needs. He also said the state will provide stipends to nurses, nurse assistants and other staff members and offer free or low-cost hotel rooms for workers possibly exposed to the virus or who test positive and don't need to be hospitalized.

Protecting California's most vulnerable residents and employees is a top priority, Newsom said,

The USNS Mercy hospital ship, which is docked in Los Angeles, will send about 40 medical staff to a regional skilled nursing facility on Monday, said Navy Capt. John Rotruck, the ship's commander. It was not immediately clear which facility would receive the assistance.

Virus cases have been reported at facilities in San Bernardino, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties.

For most people, the new 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.