Coronavirus: Another Bay Area nursing home COVID-19 outbreak leads to questions about Gov. Newsom's plan

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) -- Late Thursday afternoon, the ABC7 I-Team confirmed another novel coronavirus outbreak at a facility that serves seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area.

This time, at Drake Terrace in San Rafael.

The rising number of outbreaks in retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities have some in the industry questioning part of Gov. Gavin Newsom's plan to address the pandemic.

COVID-19 poses a very high risk for the elderly, so the argument goes, why move COVID-19 patients into nursing homes?

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The I-Team confirmed that "several" residents and staff have tested positive for coronavirus at Drake Terrace, a 123-unit senior living community in San Rafael.

ABC7 I-Team reporter Dan Noyes asked the company for exact numbers of those infected, but they declined and added, "At this time, the origin of exposure is not known, and there are no other confirmed cases in the community."

Drake Terrace is just the latest center serving the elderly to be hit by COVID-19: from the deadly outbreaks at Hayward Gateway Care and Rehabilitation Center and Atria Burlingame, to Orinda Care Center and San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital.

As a result, Newsom's plan to place coronavirus patients in nursing homes is drawing new criticism.

RELATED: Gov. Newsom says coronavirus curve in California is 'bending' and 'stretching'

On March 30, the governor said, "We are also looking to get some 1,000 skilled nursing facility units up and running."

Dr. Michael Wasserman is president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine. When asked if he thought that was a good idea, he answered, "No."

He also told the I-Team, "Moving a person who has COVID into a facility that doesn't have COVID will ultimately result in some people dying. That's just, it's medically wrong and it's ethically wrong."

Dr. Wasserman has been trying to get the governor's ear, to send his plan for "What California needs to do to protect its nursing home population".

Among the ideas:

  • Split the populations so that COVID-19 patients are "either in completely separate facilities or in separate wings of the same building."

  • "The coronavirus patients must be served by completely different staff members."

Dr. Wasserman says as it stands now, if he were able, he would bring a family member home from most skilled nursing facilities because of COVID-19.

"Is she was in 95% of the nursing homes in the state of California, I would have her out of there in a heartbeat," said Dr. Wasserman.

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The I-Team has obtained a letter from San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, that contains a skilled nursing facility, saying they will "begin accepting COVID-19 patients next week."

They tell ABC7 News they are able to keep COVID-19 patients in a separate wing of the building, and that "we take the health and safety of our patients, residents and staff as a first priority."

Dr. Wasserman tells us for some facilities, money will be a factor. Under California's new "patient driven payment model" or PDPM, they will receive a premium to treat COVID-19 patients.

Noyes: "What's the difference in how much they can make for a COVID-19 patient versus the normal medical patient?"
Wasserman: "Huge, we're talking four to five times the amount of money per day."

The I-Team has been able to reach Newsom before for comment, but not Thursday. We tried a conference call and emailed his staff. They sent some background, but no answer to the central question. Is it time to rethink this plan? We'll keep asking until I get a direct answer.

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