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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Some San Diego County Senior Care Centers Now Have Limited Access To Coronavirus Test Kits

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Speaker 1: 00:00 Senior care facilities in San Diego are taking special precautions to avoid the kind of outbreak that caused so many deaths in a care home in Washington state. Older people are especially vulnerable to serious illness as a result of the Covance 19 virus. The senior facility say they've already been practicing social distancing and restricting visits to residents. Now some of the care centers in San Diego have the capacity to do limited coronavirus testing. Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Amica Sharma Amica welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:35 Thank you. It's good to speak with you. Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:37 How are these facilities using their covert 19 test kits?

Speaker 2: 00:43 Well, the kids are only going to be used on elderly people who are actually experiencing these Cobin 19 symptoms and and those symptoms, those signs range from a fever, uh, to extreme fatigue. Um, a dry cough and in some cases stomach upset.

Speaker 1: 01:04 Do they have to get clearance from the County to use them?

Speaker 2: 01:08 I spoke with a senior executive at one facility yesterday and she said that the test kits they have purchased are from a private lab and they are approved for use by the centers for disease control and prevention.

Speaker 1: 01:25 Do we know if any of the care centers that have these tasks have a resident who's tested positive?

Speaker 2: 01:32 Well that is the question. I checked with the County yesterday and they said as of yesterday then you have no cases that are tied to a senior care place in the County. But I also know that in speaking to one senior manager at a care facility that did not have access to test kits, he said they're urgent residents who think that they might be symptomatic to isolate themselves and the facility is actually delivering meals to them in their rooms and in the process they're also seeking medical attention. Um, but many believe it's only a matter of time before there's actually a diagnosed case.

Speaker 1: 02:09 What would happen if, if one of these seniors at one of these centers did have a positive result? It would that also be to quarantine within the nursing home.

Speaker 2: 02:20 Uh, if, if anyone thinks that they are symptomatic and they don't have immediate access to a test, they will be quarantined immediately and they'll be transferred to a hospital for testing.

Speaker 1: 02:30 We know that people over the age of 65 seem to be more likely to develop serious illness if they get the virus, but how much more likely and does risk increase the older a person is

Speaker 2: 02:43 [inaudible] it does. Uh, the risk grows exponentially with age. The CDC says nationwide, uh, people between the ages of 75 and 84 have a 4.3% death rate from coven 19, and it is more than 10% for seniors. 85 and older people living at these facilities have been affected the most. They account for about a quarter of the deaths in the United States so far, even though they only account for about 1% of the population. In other words, only 1% of the population lives at these places in the country

Speaker 1: 03:22 are the test kits that some of the senior homes have in San Diego. Are they ever used on employees and staff of the senior care homes?

Speaker 2: 03:31 As far as I know, and I've only spoken with a few, they don't intend to use some tests on their employees. Um, I know that one of the places I spoke with yesterday, they, uh, are screening employees and actually most of the facilities are screening employees, um, before they start their shifts. And, and that means that their temperature is taken. That means they're asked questions about how they're feeling and what their travel and their exposure has been to other people. That's before they start their shift. If, uh, during or after their shift, they're not feeling well. Um, they are told to go home.

Speaker 1: 04:10 Now are most of senior care facilities prohibiting visitors? Now?

Speaker 2: 04:15 They are. And that started about two weeks ago. Um, I know that most of the senior care places in our region began a lockdown and that basically meant that only essential visitors, uh, caregivers, people who cleaned the facility, people who handle food at the facility are allowed in. And again, they're only allowed in after they've gone through that screening process. But visitors are basically banned.

Speaker 1: 04:41 What were you able to find out about how aware the residents are about the threat of coven? 19.

Speaker 2: 04:48 I talked to the director of one of these places and he said, uh, at his place that, that a lot of the residents are following the news very closely. Um, they're extremely aware of the latest developments and, um, they come to him a lot during the day, visit his office and say, what if you heard, what's the latest? Uh, many of them are actually staying in their rooms most of the time and they are glued to the television. Um, even when they go into the dining halls, um, both the facilities and the residents themselves, they're making sure that they keep a safe distance apart. I know that, uh, some residents at some places have had to forgo activities, but, but some are coming up with different activities that allow them to still participate in life, enjoy, uh, themselves a little bit while still remaining a safe distance apart. Um, one place said that, uh, one guy had designed a, a distance art program. Another place said that they, a lot of the seniors were playing charades from a safe distance. So they're trying to keep life as normal as possible, um, but still enjoy themselves to some extent. I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Amica Sherma Amika thank you. Thank you. Maureen.

But with elder care facilities nationwide becoming hot spots for outbreaks, experts say it is very likely too little too late to prevent COVID-19 in local centers.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.