44 contract virus at skilled nursing facility

COVID-19 outbreak infects 25 residents, 19 staff members at Redwood Springs Healthcare Center 

By Reggie Ellis

VISALIA – An outbreak of COVID-19 at a Visalia skilled nursing facility has infected 25 residents and 19 staff members, as of press time. 

On April 1, Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency announced that six patients and two healthcare professionals at the Redwood Springs Healthcare Center, located at 1925 E. Houston in Visalia, tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As of Monday, April 6 the virus had spread to five times as many people, 25 patients and 19 staff members. Five residents and seven staff members tested negative for the virus and tests are pending for another 10 residents and nine staff members. 

“We are thinking about the patients and staff at Redwood Springs,” Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught said. “Public health staff are working in close coordination with Redwood Springs Healthcare Center to monitor everyone in the facility.”

Patients at the 176-bed facility who have tested positive for COVID-19 are being separated from the rest of the patient population in an isolation wing. They are being housed in shared rooms and are being cared for by staff who are only serving positive COVID-19 patients. Additionally, those who are symptomatic will be tested. Due to protected health information requirements and to maintain patient privacy, HHSA and the facility did not disclose additional information about these cases.

“The information we release about the positive COVID-19 cases in Tulare County is carefully curated to provide useful information to our community members, while also excluding information that would lead to the identification of patients. This is a protection, provided by law, that is extended to everyone,” said Tammie Weyker-Adkins, spokesperson for Tulare County HHSA.

Those infected represent less than 2% of the facility’s 153 patients and a fraction of a percent of the its 150-member staff but just under half of the 90 cases in Visalia. There are anywhere from 25-30 staff members on site at any given time. Redwood Springs Administrator Anita Hubbard said the facility has been on lockdown since early March. 

“We have been vigilant and early for weeks in adopting the practices and protocols that have been directed by Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, state and county guidance to protect the frail and vulnerable residents entrusted to our care,” Hubbard said. “This incident underscores the service and sacrifices made by our dedicated team every day. We’re grateful for their continued efforts. Our top priority remains the health and well-being of everyone in our facility.”

The outbreak is similar to the start of the virus on the West Coast on Feb. 28 when 81 residents, 34 staff members, and 14 visitors contracted the virus at a skilled nursing facility in Seattle. In that case, 23 people died, but there have been no reported deaths at the Visalia facility. 

Family members of residents at the facility are encouraged to communicate with their loved ones via phone and video conferencing. For more information, call Redwood Springs at 559-732-1020.

These 44 cases are a part of the 135 total confirmed cases in Tulare County HHSA as of press time. Because the facility has been on lock down and none of the residents have traveled, it is unknown how the resident came in contact with the virus. Cases of the virus where the source is unknown are called “community transmission,” the first cases of which were confirmed by HHSA on Friday, including Redwood Springs. These cases are worrisome because they cannot be traced back to a source.

“Tulare Public Health Branch has been conducting investigations on every case to ascertain the transmission type, called contact tracingm: Dr. Karen Haught said. “This serves to contain the spread of the virus by ensuring contacts of affected cass are notified.”

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