Poll: 76% of Nursing Home Staff Say Covid-19 Has Spread to Co-Workers

A patient is evacuated from the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside, Calif., on April 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

(CN) — Among certified nurse assistants and other health workers surveyed in a California Health Care Foundation poll released Friday, 76% reported confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases among fellow staff at their facilities — adding to an already troubling account of how California nursing facilities have fared during the pandemic.

As of Thursday, 356,850 Californians have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and at least 7,404 have died after contracting the disease. And nursing homes in the Golden State have become tragic hotspots for virus transmission and deaths.

Among the residents of the state’s 1,223 nursing homes, at least 15,898 have tested positive for Covid-19, according to California Department of Public Health data. At least 10,952 nursing home staff have tested positive for the virus and 101 have died after contracting the disease.

The California Department of Public Health lists current Covid-19 outbreaks at 982 skilled nursing and 156 assisted-living facilities. And the number of residents at skilled nursing facilities who died after contracting Covid-19 stands at 3,450, according to an LA Times analysis of CDPH data.

Nursing home staff in LA County and other regions of California have continuously protested what they describe as pandemic working conditions made unsafe by an undersupply of personal protective equipment and testing for staff.

Health experts have noted the alarming surge in novel coronavirus cases in nursing homes in Los Angeles County and others with skilled nursing facilities where a majority of residents are Black and Latino. 

Among nursing home staff in LA County who were surveyed, 89% said there were known or suspected coronavirus cases among colleagues, compared to 69% of nursing home workers outside LA County who said the same about their facilities. 

Statewide, 60% of respondents reported Covid-19 cases among residents at their facilities, according to the poll which was conducted June 5-July 12.

The California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) poll of 353 employees at skilled nursing facilities in the state included 285 certified nurse assistants, who often perform a bulk of the patient care tasks in nursing homes. Other people surveyed by the foundation and partner Truth on Call include food service workers, janitors, housekeepers, and laundry staff.

Kristof Stremikis, director of market analysis and insight at CHCF, said in a statement that poll results regarding disproportionately more cases at facilities with majority Black and Latino residents are alarming.

“Frontline health workers in nursing homes are reporting disturbingly high numbers of Covid-19 cases among the staff of these facilities,” said Stremikis. “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.”

More than nine in 10 health workers surveyed said they’re concerned about contracting the novel coronavirus while at work, compared with 51% who said they’re “extremely concerned.”

One in four nursing home workers surveyed said they’re not confident in their employer’s ability to appropriately respond to current or future coronavirus transmission among residents or staff.

On the question of whether personal protective equipment is readily available for staff, 23% of poll respondents said supplies were inadequate. 

“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,” Stremikis said. “Many are concerned about their facility’s ability to respond to infections when they occur.”

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