Coronavirus questions: I-Team digs into records of Orinda nursing home, scene of COVID-19 outbreak

ORINDA, Calif. (KGO) -- A resident from East Bay nursing home Orinda Care Center died over the weekend after testing positive for novel coronavirus. He was among two dozen residents who've been infected there, along with several staff, making for one of the largest nursing home outbreaks in the state.

The ABC7 I-Team has been digging into the facility's records. Advocates for nursing homes tell us this coronavirus pandemic is exposing long-simmering problems with oversight.

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In exclusive video, crews in hazmat suits perform a deep clean for COVID-19 at Orinda Care Center. The I-Team was there Sunday to also see a nurse from the county arrive, her second day working at the facility.

County nurse: "Just helping."

Dan Noyes: "Helping to clean things up and to test or-"

County nurse: "No, just to help with the patients."

Dan Noyes: "Okay, great, thank you."

County nurse: "Thank you."

Dan Noyes: "I appreciate it."

We also met a pharmacy driver who had to adjust to new rules.

"They put a box over there so I drop it there," the driver said.

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All these precautions are being taken after a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 died over the weekend. The county tells us he was already in hospice.

Three staff and 23 other residents have also been infected. Half of those cases are people over 80 years of age.

Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Public Health, said Friday, "We know with COVID-19, the mortality and the seriousness of the illness is very much related to age as well as other illnesses, so that's why we have a lot of concern about this population."

Orinda Care Center is one of eleven facilities owned by Crystal Solorzano, who has a frequent presence on Instagram. Solorzano showed off new masks for her staff, "Alright guys, as we told 'ya, we got masks."

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Records show in May of last year, the state revoked her nursing home administrator license "for unprofessional conduct ... based on (her) using fraudulent documents" in applying for the license. But Solorzano is still permitted to operate homes including Orinda Care Center while appealing the decision.

Mike Dark, an attorney for the California Association of Nursing Home Reform, tells I-Team reporter Dan Noyes that the coronavirus crisis is exposing some serious problems.

"You, Dan, could go out tomorrow and buy a nursing facility and run it for years without being licensed," Dark said.

Through a spokesperson, Solarzano at first agreed to an interview, but then backed out. We also wanted to ask about the record of violations at Orinda Care Center.

Among those violations are:

- August of last year, Public Health found they failed to meet minimum staffing requirements on 16 of 24 days checked.

- In July, the state cited Orinda Care Center for misuse of anti-psychotic drugs, and failing to properly sanitize tableware and cookware, putting the residents at risk of food-borne illness.

- In May, an investigation found the facility failed to keep a resident with dementia safe from sexual abuse by a housekeeper, who had two previous complaints of sexual abuse.

Through a spokesman, Solorzano says, "We believe these were unacceptable, but isolated, incidents. We're doing everything we can to ensure they won't happen again."

The nursing home advocate primarily lays blame in Sacramento.

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"The State Department of Public Health has let this happen for years," said Mike Dark of CANHR. "It's let this happen by being asleep at the wheel in terms of licensing these facilities."

Access our database of nursing home infection deficiencies here:


Solorzano says her other ten nursing homes do not have COIVD-19. Her entire statement is below. The I-Team also spoke with the State Department of Public Health and followed up with an email asking for a response to Mike Dark's complaints of lack of oversight, and have not received a response.

MEDIA STATEMENT
ORINDA CARE CENTER

April 6, 2020
Dan Kramer, Orinda Care Center Spokesperson

"On Thursday, April 2, 2020 Contra Costa Health Services elected to test all the residents of the Orinda Care Center for COVID-19. That same day, we learned from Contra Costa Health Services that twenty-four residents and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Testing was done at the facility after two residents were hospitalized for flu symptoms. Twenty-two residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 are a-symptomatic. Contra Costa Health Services has opined that these residents remain at Orinda Care Center and "isolate in place" to prevent further spread of the virus.

We have followed and continue to follow infection prevention protocols to protect the health and well-being of the residents and staff. Adhering to CDC, CMS and CDPH publications and recommendations, no visitors or non-essential personnel have been allowed at Orinda since March 12, 2020. The staff and ownership have taken all reasonable measures to reduce opportunities for social spreading and mitigate risks for our residents, while still providing essential care.

Facility management and ownership have ensured that our facility is well equipped with Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) that will aid in the protection of all the residents and staff. We are absolutely committed to protecting the well-being and safety of our residents and ensuring that every resident continues to receive exceptional care and attention during this trying time.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the myriad collateral effects, the ownership of Orinda Care Center has enhanced infection control protocols in many ways at Orinda Care and across all its facilities. Tapping its deep reserve of clinical experience and also heeding and benefiting from the circulars and other guidance provided by State and Federal healthcare agencies (such as the CDC, CMS, DHEC and Contra Costa Health Services), Orinda and its sister facilities have taken such measures as restricting non-medically necessary visits to our facility, screening employees and residents for symptoms and high temperatures, avoiding group activities whenever possible and implementing appropriate protocols for residents, staff and family members.

We are in close and constant communication with local and state health authorities regarding this matter and will strictly abide by their requirements to limit risk to our other residents and employees, including testing other individuals as advisable. We continue to monitor the health of our staff members and other residents, for their own well-being and for the well-being all at the facility.

The assistance that the healthcare authorities have provided us in this matter is greatly appreciated, as is the patience and cooperation of our residents and the extraordinary efforts of our staff, as they run towards the fight rather than away by tirelessly continuing to care for our residents during this challenging time."

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