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State Lawmakers Question Nursing Homes On COVID-19 Response

Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood of Santa Rosa seen here questioning Craig Cornett, president and
chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Facilities, June 9, 2020.
Nicholas McVicker
Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood of Santa Rosa seen here questioning Craig Cornett, president and chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Facilities, June 9, 2020.

State lawmakers sought answers from the nursing home industry Tuesday over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When did you begin to take this seriously and what is your plan going forward?" asked Assemblyman Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa, during a joint hearing of the Health and Aging and Long-Term Care committees.

Wood expressed concern and frustration as he questioned Craig Cornett, who heads the California Association of Health Facilities which represents nursing homes. Nursing homes have been linked to nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.

“The first outbreaks of COVID were in long-term care facilities in Washington, early, early,” Wood repeated for emphasis. “When did you begin to try to acquire your own PPE (personal protective equipment)? And I point this out because the vast majority of your skilled nursing facilities are for-profit. And they’re making a lot of money.”

The nursing home industry blames the high death rate on PPE shortages, lack of testing and conflicting advice from public health officials.

“I would say that the profession took it seriously from the get-go,” said Cornett, president and chief executive officer of the California Association of Health Facilities.

“The guidance was changing. We did not know initially that asymptomatic people could be transferred into skilled nursing facilities and be spreading the disease without any symptoms showing at all," he said.

But health officials at the hearing said information about asymptomatic spread was made public in early March.

State Lawmakers Question Nursing Homes On COVID-19 Response
Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.