San Francisco's Laguna Honda nursing home reports lowest COVID-19 death rate for its size

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital, the largest skilled nursing home in the state, continues to report the lowest COVID-19 death rate in the Bay Area for a facility its size.

"The city made the decision really early on to be aggressive in terms on how we fought through the pandemic," said Michael Phillips, CEO of Laguna Honda.

Phillips touts the San Francisco Dept. of Public Health's early and aggressive approach to protect the 715 residents of Laguna Honda in the city's Twin Peaks neighborhood.

Laguna Honda serves the city's most vulnerable residents that can't afford private nursing care. The facility was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak in late March and was immediately placed on a mandatory quarantine. Within a couple of weeks, infection control nurses, physicians, and epidemiologists from the CDC arrived to help.

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"It was so critical asking for that help, not only asking, but receiving it," said Phillips.

According to Phillips, the hospital reported 11 new COVID cases from this latest surge out of the 309 active cases in long-term care facilities across San Francisco County.

"Even though we've seen staff cases rise during the surges, we haven't seen resident cases rise, even now," Phillips said.

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Of the 715 residents of Laguna Honda, only 5% or 33 residents have tested positive since March.

In total, there are more than 1,700 healthcare workers at the hospital, roughly 6% or 103 staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.

"One of the responses from the nursing home industry we hear is that it's just not possible for facilities to defend themselves from the virus, it's too expensive, it's just not possible, people will die," said Mike Dark, a staff attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. "We know from Laguna Honda's experience that is not true."

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Cal Hospital Compare working in conjunction with UCSF found the number of California nursing home patients sick or dying of COVID-19 has more than doubled between May and August.

The analysis of 800 facilities found the nursing home size and number of patients played a role in the death rate. Yet, that didn't happen at Laguna Honda.

The hospital reported it's only death on Dec. 11, ten months into the pandemic. To put it in perspective, that's one out of the roughly 100 nursing home deaths reported across San Francisco County.

"It is possible to get in early like Laguna Honda and do lots of training on things like hand washing to ensure staff understand on how to prevent the virus," said Dark. "When that happens they can be successful in preventing people from dying."

According to Phillips, the trust in his staff played a huge role in their success taking extra precautions outside the hospital to ensure everyone's safety.

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