Deadly Outbreak Hits at Home

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    Orinda felt the wrath of COVID-19 when the Orinda Care Center, a nursing home with a history of recent infractions, suffered a deadly outbreak.
    Citing recent violations at the home, Orinda City Manager Steve Salomon said “the events at the care center are extremely unfortunate. This facility, like all similar ones, is regulated by the county, the state, and to some extent by the federal government. The virus has demonstrated that there are severe deficiencies in the administration of the regulations at this location and others.
    “While the city continues to monitor the situation and will encourage its county, state, and federal legislators to be vigorous in their efforts to make positive changes, there is no direct role for the city,” Salomon said.
    As of April 15, four former residents of the facility had died and 24 other residents as well as 28 staffers had tested positive for the virus. According to Dan Kramer, a crisis public relations specialist hired by the facility, those who died were in hospice or had “clinically complex underlying issues.” The Orinda Care Center houses 45 patients.
    The infected residents still at the nursing home as of April 15 were asymptomatic and are isolating in place to help prevent a spread of the virus, Kramer said. Since the outbreak, no visitors or non-essential visitors have been allowed in to the facility. The facility is also screening employees and residents for symptoms and high temperatures and avoiding group activities.
    The outbreak was discovered April 2 after two residents were hospitalized for flu symptoms and Contra Costa County Health Services (CCHS) officials stepped in to test residents and staff.
    After the attack, the nursing home came under fire for various violations at the facility and at others run by owner Crystal Solorzano.
    Charges levied against the nursing home last summer included:
      • Staffing at the nursing home being short on average two out of every three days it was monitored.
      • Improper storage and handling of medications.
      • Failure to train staff to sanitize plates and utensils putting patients at risk for food borne illnesses.
      • Workers improperly administering antipsychotic drugs.
      • A mentally disturbed housekeeper with a history of prior complaints sexually assaulting a patient with dementia.
      • Kramer said these incidents were “unacceptable, but isolated.”
    According to several news reports, Solorzano, who operates 11 nursing homes throughout California, has been cited for nine incidents at her facilities. Last May the state sought to revoke her nursing home administrator’s license.
    However, that action does not prevent her from owning nursing homes. She was not approved to open a nursing home in San Jose in December and two other locations because violations at her current properties posed “immediate jeopardy” for patients, according to news reports.
    One reason the state sought to revoke her license was it accused her of submitting fake college transcripts as part of her application to open the San Jose facility, according to press reports. Solorzano has denied the charges and is appealing.
    One of the incidents cited in denying her application to open the San Jose facility was a fire that broke out under a patient’s bed at her Lake Merritt nursing home due to faulty wiring in 2017.
    When asked about the outbreak at her nursing home by ABC7 News, Solarzano said there’s “a lot of things” she’d like to discuss but will only do so “when the time is right.” The station also reported Solarzano is in the midsts of filming a documentary.
    One problem at the facility has been its ability to have enough staff on hand – an important factor in controlling the spread of the virus. According to Kramer, “a concern” is “the potential loss of staff.” As of April 15, the county health department was providing additional staff.
    Commenting on staff who may not want to come to work for fear of contracting COVID-19, Solarzano told ABC7 “If a patient is diagnosed today, we expect them to show up. We expect them to dig their heels in and leave their fears at home and take care of those patients. It’s okay to be scared, and we’re going to support each other through it.”

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