SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Santa Clara County health officials on Thursday confirmed multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at at least two long-term care facilities and two homeless shelters in San Jose that have infected over 300 people.
The county has already been seeing an alarming spike in cases during the latest coronavirus surge, officials said. The outbreaks in congregate settings are happening “despite safeguards and regular surveillance testing.”
“These outbreaks are an unfortunate reminder that increases in community transmission of COVID-19 threaten our most vulnerable communities,” said SCC Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han. “Along with rising cases and increasing hospitalizations, this should serve as an alarm bell for each of us to take every possible step to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The spread of COVID-19 has hit two long-term care facilities, officials said. While the county noted there were multiple outbreaks at such facilities being investigated, the two most significant outbreaks had happened at facilities in San Jose.
According to the county press release, one facility confirmed 151 total positive cases as of December 2, including 81 among residents and 70 among staff. A second facility confirmed 86 total positive cases, with 66 among residents and 20 among staff as of December 2.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the larger of the two outbreaks was at Westwood Post-Acute (formerly known as Amberwood Gardens), while the second facility was identified as Skyline Healthcare Center.
Santa Clara County said there are specialized teams investigating the outbreaks and providing guidance and support to affected facilities. Assistance includes help with testing and facilitating mutual aid requests for staffing support.
Given the vulnerable health of the residents at the care facilities, the county is devoting extensive resources to controlling the outbreaks, officials said.
Officials said that there have been relatively few cases of COVID-19 in the county’s unhoused population since the pandemic began in March, but a marked increase in positive cases emerged in late November, coinciding with the sharp spike in community transmission.
The first cases confirmed at San Jose’s Boccardo Reception Center (BRC) emergency shelter were reported on November 23 when 20 individuals had positive tests. An additional 26 positive tests were reported on November 29 and 14 more positive tests were reported on December 2, bringing the total number of cases at that shelter to 60. Health officials said four cases were among staff and the rest were guests at the shelter.
A much smaller outbreak was confirmed at the South Hall homeless shelter in San Jose, where a total of seven positive tests have been reported since November 18, including one staff member and six shelter residents.
Shelter intakes were immediately suspended as soon as the COVID cases were confirmed and no new clients were referred to the two shelters after the first positive tests were received. All individuals who tested positive were placed in isolation hotel rooms for the duration of their isolation period. As an additional precaution, county officials placed most of the BRC clients, even those who tested negative for COVID-19, in hotel rooms. The few remaining clients at BRC have all completed their isolation or quarantine period.
County officials are actively working with community partners and shelter operators to reinforce safety procedures, restricting gathering at the shelters — including during mealtime and recreation — improving ventilation, enforcing mask wearing at all times, informing all residents of the scale of the outbreak and otherwise taking steps to prevent residents from coming near any other person especially when indoors.