20 people have died in Yucaipa from coronavirus. All but two were residents of one skilled-nursing facility
Eighteen residents of a Yucaipa skilled nursing facility are dead after a coronavirus outbreak at the facility, and more than 100 residents and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.
The deaths at Cedar Mountain Post Acute Rehabilitation account for nearly a quarter of San Bernardino County’s 77 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the county’s latest numbers. Although Yucaipa has a population of about 53,600, it is reporting the third-most COVID-19 cases behind two larger cities, Fontana and San Bernardino, and leads with the highest number of reported deaths at 20.
Cedar Mountain has one of the highest publicly identified death tolls at a single nursing facility in the state. In Tulare County, 16 residents have died at one Visalia facility, where more than 160 residents and staff members have tested positive. The state is not releasing information on coronavirus-related deaths at facilities identified with outbreaks, a representative from the California Department of Public Health wrote in an email.
San Bernardino County health officials first announced an outbreak at Cedar Mountain on March 28 after a dozen residents tested positive and one died. The situation escalated nine days later when the county announced 75 residents and staff had tested positive and five residents had died. Currently, 71 residents and 34 staff members are infected.
When the county reported the five deaths at Cedar Mountain, it also announced the creation of the Nursing Facilities Task Force, which consists of county, state and federal health officials to help address virus spreads at the 171 state-licensed nursing facilities that care for about 6,600 patients.
On the same day, acting county Public Health Officer Dr. Erin Gustafson issued an order that requires nursing home staff to wear protective gear, forbids them from entering facilities if they’re showing symptoms and strongly recommends facilities to cease using staff working at other nursing facilities.
County spokesman David Wert said the task force has helped provide protective gear and testing to nursing facilities. At places where outbreaks have been identified, all patients and staff are tested, even if they’re not displaying symptoms, to identify potential carriers, Wert said.
Cedar Mountain was identified as the first facility with an outbreak in the county, Wert said. The high death toll may not only be due to many residents being in their 70s or older, but they often have multiple underlying health conditions, he said.
“Once these people became infected ... it has gradually taken its toll,” he said.
San Bernardino Supervisor Dawn Rowe, who represents Yucaipa, said it was “absolutely heartbreaking” to see the number of reported deaths at the facility.
“This virus wreaked havoc not just there but in hundreds of skilled nursing facilities throughout California,” she said in a statement.
Elizabeth Tyler, a spokeswoman for Cedar Mountain, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Previously, Tyler said the first five fatalities were residents nearly 90 or older and all had suffered from preexisting health conditions. Healthy patients were separated from infected patients, many of whom were asymptomatic at the time, she said.
A second skilled nursing facility in Yucaipa, Calimesa Post Acute, is also dealing with an outbreak that has grown rapidly in the last few days: 41 residents and one staff member have tested positive, and one person has died at the 82-bed facility, the county reported. The facility’s administrator, Dwayne Whitehead, could not be reached for comment.
Together, the outbreaks at the facilities make up 154 of the town’s 167 reported cases.
Efforts to address the spread at the state-regulated facility have been led at the county and state levels. Still, Mayor David Avila expressed sadness Thursday at how the disproportionately high death toll and cases reflect on his community.
The rural town, set in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, is a tightknit community and has many locally owned shops, he said. Many residents have followed the stay-at-home directives, but with many being elderly, the odds are against them, he said.
“On the outside, it doesn’t look good for us,” he said.
Times staff researcher Scott Wilson contributed research.
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