Coronavirus outbreak at Atria Burlingame assisted living center

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Thursday, March 19, 2020
EXCLUSIVE: Positive COVID-19 cases prompt Peninsula nursing home to close amid coronavirus pandemic
The ABC7 I-Team has confirmed three residents of a San Mateo County nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus and have been transferred to the hospital.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The ABC7 I-Team has confirmed three residents of a San Mateo County nursing home have tested positive for coronavirus and have been transferred to the hospital.

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San Mateo County Health confirms to the I-Team that it is investigating how the coronavirus infected at least three residents at Atria Burlingame. The assisted living and memory care facility is closed to visitors and family.

Julie Berk told the I-Team' Dan Noyes, "The families are freaking out and also because they can't see their loved ones, they can't see them physically. At all. And we don't know when we will."

Access our database of nursing home infection deficiencies here:

Both of Julie Berk's parents are Atria residents. Her 101-year-old father is temporarily in the hospital, and she just happened to take her 85-year-old mother home for dinner Sunday. She would like both to be tested for coronavirus, but Atria and the county say they won't give tests unless the patient shows symptoms.

Julie Berk: "I'm not happy about it, but I don't know what I can do about it."

Dan Noyes: "Why would it help you to have your mom tested?"

Julie Berk: "So that I know that she doesn't have it, both for her sake and myself and my partner's sake and my son."

Another family of an Atria resident provided emails that the facility sent out, that say the residents who have coronavirus went to the hospital this past Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The remaining residents are restricted to their apartments, and meals are being delivered to them.

CORONAVIRUS MAP: Updated number of COVID-19 cases, deaths in San Francisco Bay Area

In a crisis like this, knowledge is power, so our data team has come up with an important tool for you. You can look at the safety record of every nursing home in the country, and off course right here in the Bay Area.

The database shows the number of infection deficiencies found by state inspectors from 2016 through January of this year.

Amberwood Gardens in San Jose had five infection deficiencies, the most of any nursing home in the Bay Area. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave them the worst grade - a 1 out of five, based on a wide range of factors, including the health inspections, quality measures and staffing levels.

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Amberwood's Executive Director Steven Earl declined to be interviewed, but emailed the I-Team that the "company acquired this facility in October 2019 ... We have taken all of the good that is in the facility and are building upon it to make the facility operations and practices even stronger. Infection prevention has been one of those focuses."

"Infection control in nursing homes has been a crisis in California for decades," says Mike Dark, an attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. He tells the I-Team staffing of nursing homes is the primary issue. "Mostly untrained minimum wage staff and as a result, very little care is provided. This is really coming back to haunt us as the virus spreads in California."

This story started with a tip from a family with a loved one at Atria Burlingame. If you have something the I-Team should look into, call 1-888-40-I-Team or email through the I-Team page.

Here's a chart showing the percentage of nursing homes in each state cited for infection-control issues since 2016:

You can find documentation on nursing home complaints and inspections through the California Department of Public Health by clicking here.

Late Wednesday night, Atria's headquarters in Washington, DC sent a statement revealing that three more residents from the Burlingame facility are also in the hospital, awaiting Covid-19 test results.

Here's a statement from Mike Gentry, Senior Vice President of Care:

"The health and well-being of Atria residents and employees is our first priority. On Sunday, we received news of our first confirmed case of COVID-19 at Atria Burlingame. This resident has been in the hospital since Thursday, March 12. Over the weekend, two additional residents began showing symptoms and have tested positive for COVID-19. They all remain at the hospital under quarantine. As of today, there are also three other residents who remain at the hospital under quarantine as they await the results of their tests.

We immediately notified the San Mateo County Health Department and also shared the news directly with our employees, residents and family members. We have also been in communication with the CDC. They were on site earlier to confirm we had the proper control measures in place. We continue to work closely with them to monitor the situation and take the necessary steps to protect our residents.

Our primary concern right now is supporting our residents and staff. We remain committed to sharing updates with our community as they become available."

For a look at more stories and videos by the ABC7 News I-Team go here.

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