News

COVID-19 outbreak at Palo Alto's Channing House underscores dangers despite precautions against virus

Data shows double the number of positive cases among residents over past two weeks

Channing House has recorded 27 positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic, about half of which have been found between Sept. 17 and Oct. 1. All of the cases were linked to the assisted-living section, pictured above. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As health leaders warn of a potentially dangerous fall and winter that could lead to new cases of COVID-19, recent outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Palo Alto highlight how difficult controlling the coronavirus can be.

Channing House has had 13 COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks: six cases among residents and seven among staff, CEO and Executive Director Rhonda Bekkedahl confirmed on Oct. 1. In total, 10 residents and 17 staff members have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. One contracted caregiver also tested positive. The cases are all in the assisted-living section, Bekkedahl said in an email.

The long-term care facility isn't the only one with cases. Vi at Palo Alto and Palo Alto Commons also had cases within the past 14 days, according to data posted on a Santa Clara County Public Health Department public dashboard.

Bekkedahl said Channing House Health Center staff, which includes assisted living and skilled nursing, are currently tested weekly for the virus while other staff receive tests on a monthly basis. All residents are tested at least monthly. Outside caregivers also follow the Channing House testing schedule.

Channing House also doesn't allow indoor visits at its facilities except in end-of-life situations, she said. Staff encourages outdoor visits and provides support in scheduling and facilitating meetings over Zoom and other video conferencing platforms with family and friends, according to Bekkedahl.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

"The health and safety of the Channing House residents and staff are our top priority," Bekkedahl said. As soon as the pandemic began, staff implemented multiple, "stringent" measures for health screenings, cleaning and disinfection, Channing House has also enforced a face coverings requirement across the facility and installed more hand-washing and hand sanitizer stations.

"In addition, we have dedicated staff caring for any Covid-positive residents in a Covid-wing, which is physically separate from all other units. We are testing regularly and receive prompt results from our contracted lab," Bekkedahl added. The staff, which includes a full-time infection prevention specialist and a safety director, regularly consults with their medical director and a nurse from the county Public Health Department.

Channing House is also conducting contact tracing of residents and staff who might have crossed paths within their facilities. The Public Health Department provides advice and is doing contact tracing outside of Channing House, Bekkedahl said.

The facility follows local guidelines for quarantining any positive cases of COVID-19, which is 14 days from the date of a positive test result or seven days after the last symptom, Bekkedahl said.

Among other Palo Alto facilities, Lytton Gardens had three cases among residents in early and mid-September. As of Oct. 6, all but one of the residents have fully recovered and the other two are doing well, according to Mary McMullin, chief strategy and advancement officer at Covia Communities, Lytton Gardens' parent company.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"We have done two rounds of resident testing — all have negative results. The first round of staff testing had negative results and the second round of staff testing happened today at 2:30 p.m," she said in an email.

In the past 14 days, Vi Palo Alto had fewer than 11 cases among staff and Palo Alto Commons had fewer than 11 cases among residents, according to data reported by the county on Tuesday.

The Public Health Department declined to state how many cases specifically are at long-term care facilities. They said when a facility has less than 11 cases they don't release the exact number due to "patient privacy."

Sophia Lucas, a spokeswoman for WellQuest Living, which operates Palo Alto Commons, declined to discuss the number of COVID-19 cases at the facility. John Koselak, executive director at Vi at Palo Alto did not return a request for comment as of late Tuesday afternoon.

The county's public dashboard is also somewhat misleading regarding the number of caregivers who have tested positive at a facility. A spokesperson for the Public Health Department said in an email that the dashboard reflects cases reported by facilities to the county, but the county's accounting of staff cases does not appear to include all of the caregivers who test positive.

"Here in our county and across the state, public health departments track cases among residents of their county, and like others, this dashboard reflects cases only among residents of the county," the spokesperson said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

COVID-19 outbreak at Palo Alto's Channing House underscores dangers despite precautions against virus

Data shows double the number of positive cases among residents over past two weeks

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Oct 6, 2020, 4:43 pm

As health leaders warn of a potentially dangerous fall and winter that could lead to new cases of COVID-19, recent outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Palo Alto highlight how difficult controlling the coronavirus can be.

Channing House has had 13 COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks: six cases among residents and seven among staff, CEO and Executive Director Rhonda Bekkedahl confirmed on Oct. 1. In total, 10 residents and 17 staff members have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. One contracted caregiver also tested positive. The cases are all in the assisted-living section, Bekkedahl said in an email.

The long-term care facility isn't the only one with cases. Vi at Palo Alto and Palo Alto Commons also had cases within the past 14 days, according to data posted on a Santa Clara County Public Health Department public dashboard.

Bekkedahl said Channing House Health Center staff, which includes assisted living and skilled nursing, are currently tested weekly for the virus while other staff receive tests on a monthly basis. All residents are tested at least monthly. Outside caregivers also follow the Channing House testing schedule.

Channing House also doesn't allow indoor visits at its facilities except in end-of-life situations, she said. Staff encourages outdoor visits and provides support in scheduling and facilitating meetings over Zoom and other video conferencing platforms with family and friends, according to Bekkedahl.

"The health and safety of the Channing House residents and staff are our top priority," Bekkedahl said. As soon as the pandemic began, staff implemented multiple, "stringent" measures for health screenings, cleaning and disinfection, Channing House has also enforced a face coverings requirement across the facility and installed more hand-washing and hand sanitizer stations.

"In addition, we have dedicated staff caring for any Covid-positive residents in a Covid-wing, which is physically separate from all other units. We are testing regularly and receive prompt results from our contracted lab," Bekkedahl added. The staff, which includes a full-time infection prevention specialist and a safety director, regularly consults with their medical director and a nurse from the county Public Health Department.

Channing House is also conducting contact tracing of residents and staff who might have crossed paths within their facilities. The Public Health Department provides advice and is doing contact tracing outside of Channing House, Bekkedahl said.

The facility follows local guidelines for quarantining any positive cases of COVID-19, which is 14 days from the date of a positive test result or seven days after the last symptom, Bekkedahl said.

Among other Palo Alto facilities, Lytton Gardens had three cases among residents in early and mid-September. As of Oct. 6, all but one of the residents have fully recovered and the other two are doing well, according to Mary McMullin, chief strategy and advancement officer at Covia Communities, Lytton Gardens' parent company.

"We have done two rounds of resident testing — all have negative results. The first round of staff testing had negative results and the second round of staff testing happened today at 2:30 p.m," she said in an email.

In the past 14 days, Vi Palo Alto had fewer than 11 cases among staff and Palo Alto Commons had fewer than 11 cases among residents, according to data reported by the county on Tuesday.

The Public Health Department declined to state how many cases specifically are at long-term care facilities. They said when a facility has less than 11 cases they don't release the exact number due to "patient privacy."

Sophia Lucas, a spokeswoman for WellQuest Living, which operates Palo Alto Commons, declined to discuss the number of COVID-19 cases at the facility. John Koselak, executive director at Vi at Palo Alto did not return a request for comment as of late Tuesday afternoon.

The county's public dashboard is also somewhat misleading regarding the number of caregivers who have tested positive at a facility. A spokesperson for the Public Health Department said in an email that the dashboard reflects cases reported by facilities to the county, but the county's accounting of staff cases does not appear to include all of the caregivers who test positive.

"Here in our county and across the state, public health departments track cases among residents of their county, and like others, this dashboard reflects cases only among residents of the county," the spokesperson said.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 7, 2020 at 11:03 am
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 7, 2020 at 11:03 am
5 people like this

They need to test more frequently. My daughter is a physician at Stanford and she is tested twice a week.

How about protective gear? Are people wearing masks? Do the staff have shields?

There are easy and inexpensive things that we can do to reduce the spread.


A Channing family member
Registered user
another community
on Oct 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm
A Channing family member, another community
Registered user
on Oct 7, 2020 at 1:16 pm
17 people like this

My mother is a resident in Assisted Living in Channing. She has not tested positive, but obviously the COVID cases are a real concern.

But it's also important to give credit where credit is due. I can not imagine what Channing could do that they are not already doing. As the story notes, once the first COVID case was identified, all of the residents and all of the staff in both Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing have been tested on a weekly basis (this is a county health requirement).

The story does not mention that all of the Channing staff are wearing various forms of PPE all the time and that after the first COVID case was identified, all staff in the medical center have been wearing full PPE all the time (an N95 mask plus a face shield, gloves and full body gowns). The story also does not mention that many of the COVID positive cases were identified only through testing; the resident or staff member was completely asymptomatic. Finally, the story does not mention that the staff tending to the COVID positive residents are voluntarily isolating, living physically separate from their families and anyone else for as long as necessary.

I know the Channing staff and residents are heartbroken that, despite their best efforts, some of the residents have gotten sick. It seems clear that the current outbreak was probably all due to a single, asymptomatic spreader. And after that, Channing worked overtime to contain the problem and to protect all the rest of the residents and staff.

As the White House has demonstrated, testing alone is not enough nor does it create an effective barrier by itself. Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep socially distant! And remember that COVID is a wolf constantly lurking at the door, looking for any opening to get in.


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Oct 8, 2020 at 6:29 pm
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 6:29 pm
Like this comment

No mention if any of the "positives" have symptoms, were hospitalized, or in ICUs, I wonder why?

At my mom's senior care home, none of the residents are tested, the staff haven't been tested in months, nobody wears a mask including visitors, visitations are same as before Covid, and everybody is fine. If you don't go looking for something that doesn't exist except in trace amounts, you won't find it. If you allow seniors to live normal lives, maybe depression and feeling of isolation won't set in and harm their mental and physical health?


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 9, 2020 at 1:12 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2020 at 1:12 pm
1 person likes this

I'm a little confused. Certainly Channing knows all the employees and caregivers who come into the facility. I assume they can trace all their outside contacts, family and friends for sure, and visitors who might have come for a final visit before death of a patient. Can someone who is asymptomatic test negative? And still carry and spread the disease? I have known and still know many residents who went to Channing, enjoyed the many benefits they offer, and knew that it would be their last place of residence on earth. Prayers to all family members of those who have died, for the people who still live there, and for the workers who still take care of them.


Marie
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Oct 13, 2020 at 12:06 pm
Marie, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 13, 2020 at 12:06 pm
Like this comment

I will be joining Channing House next year. Their stellar treatment of their covid-19 outbreak encourages me to do so. While there was an asymptomatic positive earlier in the year, all who tested positive in this outbreak have had symptoms, patients and staff alike. A few were presymptomatic - ie had no symptoms at the time of the test, but developed them later. Several were hospitalized. Fortunately, this outbreak was limited to the Assisted Living wing. Strict protocols meant no one in skilled nursing or independent living shared staff with assisted living and no one else was infected. Because of their strict protocols, I have no hesitation to moving into Channing House/

Covid19 is serious, it is real and those of us who are most at risk, need to be far more careful than younger people. Those of us who are so vulnerable, need to test regularly, avoid large gatherings, avoid travel and wear masks, even when it is ok for younger, healthier people to reduce precautions. The consequences for us are grave. One article claimed 80% of those who have died are over 70.

Three Stanford researchers just recommended opening up faster and tolerating a higher rate of covid19. While I disagree with that tolerance, it is notable that they also accompanied this by saying it was very important to protect the most vulnerable. And that is the part that is missing as we reopen - yes for children and healthy adults. But we who are older or have auto immune disease, cannot reopen without a lot of preventable deaths. I am not afraid of death - but let it come naturally, not from a preventable infectious disease, in isolation with no comfort from families and friends. I also get flu shots. While not as deadly as covid19, it is still deadly.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.