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2 COVID-19 deaths strike a H.B. nursing home where 74 staff, resident infections have been detected

A healthcare worker enters the Huntington Valley Healthcare Center in Huntington Beach on Wednesday. This nursing home reported two deaths and more than 70 known infections among its residents and staff Tuesday.
A healthcare worker enters the Huntington Valley Healthcare Center in Huntington Beach on Wednesday. This nursing home reported two deaths and more than 70 known infections among its residents and staff Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Two patients at a Huntington Beach nursing home have died of complications related to COVID-19, the facility said on Tuesday.

It’s the same day that the care home, Huntington Valley Healthcare Center, saw the rate of infection reach nearly half of its patient population and approximately a quarter of its healthcare staff, it said.

The skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility on Newman Avenue learned Tuesday of its first fatality related to the coronavirus, a 79-year-old man who had been transferred to an area hospital to receive acute care had died overnight. A 77-year-old man who died Tuesday afternoon was the first to die at the nursing home, according to a spokesperson for the center.

The nursing and rehabilitation facility, which houses approximately 100 residents and boasts a staff of equal size, has seen 50 cumulative cases among residents and 24 additional cases among staff as of noon Tuesday, said David Oates, a spokesperson for the center.

Of the resident population, 14 infected individuals have been transferred to area hospitals, Oates said.

As of Tuesday, Huntington Beach has had 148 cases of known COVID-19 infections, according to OC Health Care Agency, meaning the Huntington Valley cluster makes up nearly half of the infected population. Orange County has seen 1,691 cases to date, including 29 new cases as of Tuesday and 33 deaths, according to county health data, though that data does not include at least one of the healthcare center’s deaths as of Tuesday.

COVID-19 infected residents at Huntington Valley are in isolation and outside visitors are prohibited from entering. The healthcare facility has also implemented visitor restrictions, screening of staff and medical providers, increased monitoring of patients’ conditions and curtailing communal activities.

Infected healthcare workers were directed to self-isolate. Only “mild symptoms” have been experienced among staff, Oates said, and none have been hospitalized. Despite the sharp reduction in healthcare personnel, the facility maintains that it remains adequately staffed.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to their family of those who lost their lives from COVID-19. Our top priority remains the health and well-being of everyone in our facility,” Huntington Valley administrator Sarah Bates said in a written statement. “This incident underscores the service and sacrifices made by our dedicated team every day. We’re grateful for their continued efforts.”

Despite initiating lockdown protocols on March 11, the center received its first positive test on April 11 and has since been working with county health officials, Oates said. “Stringent safety protocols” went into effect immediately and all residents have been tested.

The facility has also built up its stock of personal protective equipment, prepared additional isolation areas and heightened its disinfecting protocols, according to officials.

“We’ve been vigilant and early for weeks in adopting the practices and protocols ... to protect the frail and vulnerable residents entrusted to our care,” Bates said.

Huntington Valley is one of three skilled nursing facilities in Huntington Beach, according to the Huntington Beach Fire Department spokesman Eric McCoy. The city has upped outreach efforts and the fire department stays in frequent contact with the city’s health care facilities, McCoy said.

According to a press release issued by the city on Tuesday, the fire department’s outreach team has even helped secure personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

The reported cases at Huntington Valley, McCoy said, correlate with this week’s uptick in “COVID-19-related calls,” which is how local first responders are classifying any emergency service calls that involve flu-like symptoms. Overall, however, the fire department reports normal levels of emergency service calls, McCoy said.

The OC Health Care Agency launched the OC COVID-19 Testing Network Tuesday with six clinics and plans to add four more within the next two weeks.

This week, Orange County launched expanded testing to identify active cases of COVID-19. On Tuesday, OC Health Care Agency launched the OC COVID-19 Testing Network, comprised of six clinics, which will each have the capacity to administer 100 diagnostic tests per day. The tests are available by appointment only.

The county plans to add four more within the next two weeks. So far, antibody tests, which can identify those who were infected and may have already recovered, aren’t yet available.

OC Health Care Agency hopes to be up to 2,000 tests per day by next month.

The AltaMed at 8041 Newman Ave. in Huntington Beach is set to open its testing clinic on Thursday. Visit occovid19.ochealthinfo.com for more information.

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