OAKLAND — Just over three out of four (76%) of certified nurse assistants and other front line employees at California skilled nursing facilities say they have known or suspected Covid-19 cases among staff at their facilities.
The numbers are climbing even higher at facilities in Los Angeles County and in nursing homes with a majority of residents who are Black or Latino, according to a statewide survey from the California Health Care Foundation and Truth on Call. Sixty percent of respondents report cases among nursing home residents.
The survey, conducted June 5-July 12, 2020 among 353 employees at California skilled nursing facilities, included 285 certified nurse assistants, who typically perform the most patient care tasks in nursing homes. Other survey participants included people who work in food service, janitorial services, housekeeping, and laundry.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents in Los Angeles County report known or suspected cases among staff. Sixty-nine percent of people who work at a California nursing home outside Los Angeles County report staff cases of Covid-19.
These findings are consistent with data reported by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). In addition, 81% of those who say they work in facilities with a large proportion of Black and Latino residents report known or suspected cases among staff.
By comparison, 60% of respondents statewide say their facility has had known or suspected Covid-19 cases among residents. Among those working in Los Angeles County, 76% report infections among their facility’s residents compared with 50% of those who work elsewhere in California.
In line with other data showing C0vid-19’s disproportionate impact among people who are Black or Latino, 66% of those who work in facilities with half or more Black or Latino residents report cases among residents. By comparison, 50% of those who work in facilities where less than half of residents are Black or Latino report cases among residents. This in spite of the fact that Black and Latino Californians report compliance with prevention measures — like wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing — at above average rates.
“Frontline health workers in nursing homes are reporting disturbingly high numbers of COVID-19 cases among the staff of these facilities,” said Kristof Stremikis, director of market analysis and insight at the California Health Care Foundation. “The trend is even worse in Los Angeles County, which has experienced a noticeable spike in cases, as well as in facilities that serve higher percentages of Black and Latino residents.”
“Because most nursing home workers have seen COVID-19 cases among staff and even residents at their facility, they tend to be very worried about contracting the disease themselves,” added Stremikis. “Many are concerned about their facility’s ability to respond to infections when they occur.”
More than nine in 10 respondents are worried about contracting the disease while working — with 51% “extremely concerned,” 28% “very concerned, and 14% “somewhat concerned.” Respondents expressed ongoing worries about the availability of tests, protective equipment, and other strategies for combatting the virus:
More than eight in ten respondents say patients and staff are being tested for Covid-19 when needed at least “most of the time.”
- While 77% report adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) at their facility, 23% say PPE is not adequate.
- 88% say their facility has the capacity to quarantine residents who have been exposed to Covid-19 or “cohort” those who have the illness—two key strategies for containing outbreaks.
- Nearly three in four respondents (74%) say they are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” in their employer’s ability to respond to current or future Covid-19 infections among residents or staff, while one in four say they are not confident.
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