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South Bay Nursing Home Has State's Highest Number Of COVID-19 Cases

The entrance to Reo Vista Healthcare Center on July 10, 2020.
Matthew Bowler
The entrance to Reo Vista Healthcare Center on July 10, 2020.

A San Diego nursing home now carries the dubious distinction of having the highest number of coronavirus-infected residents in California.

Reo Vista Healthcare Center in Paradise Hills acknowledged this week that it has “100 confirmed, COVID-19 positive” residents at the facility. No other nursing home in the state has that many cases, according to a California Department of Public Health database.

South Bay Nursing Home Has State’s Highest Number Of COVID-19 Cases
Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.

As recently as late May, the Reo Vista had less than 11 cases, according to state records. The facility’s management said Friday that the spike is the result of more testing, not poor infection control.

“The increase is due to the rigorous testing we’ve undertaken with the assistance of San Diego County Health & Human Services as well as the state,” said Reo Vista Administrator Curtis White in an email to KPBS. “Most of the individuals with COVID are experiencing mild or no symptoms.”

Video: San Diego Nursing Home Has Highest Number Of Coronavirus-Infected Residents In California

Additionally, 20 team members have also tested positive for COVID-19 and are unavailable to work.

White said he couldn’t speculate on how the virus got inside the facility. Reo Vista, like other senior care facilities, banned all but essential staff in March and screens employees for symptoms each day before they start work. White added that Reo Vista has also limited group activities, intensified disinfection and increased its personal protection equipment.

“We have been vigilant and early for months in adopting the practices and protocols that have been directed by Centers for Disease Control, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, state and county guidance to protect the frail and vulnerable residents entrusted to our care,” White said.

The department of public health told KPBS in an email that it has sent a strike team of “infection specialists” to help Reo Vista prevent further spread of COVID-19 and figure out who else may have been exposed during the outbreak at the facility.

“This team and the local health department are heavily involved in the ongoing situation at Reo Vista,” a department representative wrote.

RELATED: San Diego Nursing Homes With Most Coronavirus Cases Have Long Complaint Records

Senior care facilities across the country have been slammed by COVID-19. In California, almost half of the 6,851 coronavirus deaths are tied to congregate care communities.

San Diego resident Noemi Duenas says her mother-in-law lives at the Paradise Hills facility. The 71-year-old is suffering from cancer and contracted COVID-19 during a hospital stay. Duenas says she has pleaded with Reo Vista to allow her to be properly screened so she can visit her ailing relative.

“She is at the end of her life,” Duenas said. “I want to have at least someone there. And it doesn’t have to be the whole day. It could just be a few hours.”

Duenas said her mother-in-law told her she’s in a room with two other COVID-19 patients who can’t speak. She also said it’s clear Reo Vista is understaffed. Duenas said her mother-in-law has to press her call button several times before a worker appears and that her food is routinely cold.

A Reo Vista spokesperson said privacy laws prevent them from responding to Duenas’ claims regarding her mother-in-law. But the facility did respond to her claim of a staffing shortage

“This incident underscores the service and sacrifices made by our dedicated team every day,” Reo Vista said in its emailed statement. “We’re grateful for their continued efforts. Our top priority remains the health and well-being of everyone in our facility.”