WATSONVILLE, Santa Cruz County (CBS SF) – Nine people died, and more than 60 residents and staff tested positive from a COVID-19 outbreak at a nursing facility in Watsonville, officials said Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, 46 residents and 15 staff have tested positive at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center, the Santa Cruz County health agency said in a statement.

The nine deaths at the facility account for more than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Santa Cruz County since the pandemic started — 16 — according to data from the agency.

“Our condolences go out to these individuals’ families and friends,” officials said.

Local health officials along with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said they are working closely with the facility to manage the outbreak.

CDPH has made multiple visits to the facility to provide assessments and recommendations to facility management. Meanwhile, Santa Cruz County officials said they are review protocols on isolation, testing and screening, along with responding to resource requests for staff and supplies.

Officials also said the California National Guard is also providing staffing support to the facility.

“Watsonville Post-Acute informed CDPH and the County as soon as the first resident tested positive,” said Dr. David Ghilarducci, the county’s deputy health officer.

Last month, health officer Dr. Gail Newel said that the coronavirus was likely brought in by someone on staff.

“There were no relaxed guidelines at Watsonville Acute … we will probably never know how it started…it’s most likely due to staff because residents are not coming and going,” Newel said on Sept. 24, when the outbreak had infected 27 residents and six staff members.

Newel was also concerned about cases being on the rise in Santa Cruz County at the time. On Sept. 17, 44 new cases were reported, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

Health officials said in Wednesday’s statement that the rate of new cases in Santa Cruz County continues to decline, but skilled nursing and long-term care facilities remain at elevated risk for COVID-19 due to the setting and the vulnerability of the population.

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