Several Central Coast senior living facilities have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19, a virus that is both highly contagious and deadlier in older patients.
AARP California Advocacy Dir. Blanca Castro said COVID-19 is to blame for the deaths of more than 2,500 residents of California senior living facilities.
Bc: "These are our parents, grandparents, brothers, or sisters, spouses," Castro said. "It didn't have to be this way."
Five of those deaths were reported at Santa Maria's Country Oaks Care Center. Several other non-lethal cases have been reported in at least three San Luis Obispo facilities.
"Just like we have rules and guidelines and quite frankly, rules to protect children in school, that's what needs to happen in nursing homes," Castro said.
AARP is calling for stricter regulations around cleanliness and visitation at senior living centers.
Mission View Health Center in San Luis Obispo requires all staff to wear masks inside, walk through a sanitizer spray upon entering the building, and be tested monthly for COVID-19.
"It's screening everyone, observing people, following the masking rule, hand hygiene rule, sanitation rule, which we follow religiously every day," Mission View Health Center Admin. Jack Doria sais.
Doria said his skilled nursing staff was previously allowed to be dually employed at other senior living centers across town. Effective in March, that's no longer allowed, a move that cost Mission View 15 employees.
"We've ensured there is no cross over between staff that works in one facility and comes over to work at Mission View," Doria said.
That lockdown on who enters the building extends to friends and family of residents.
"Individuals with dementia or Alzheimers, they don't understand why they can't see their loved one," Castro said.
Castro said AARP is hearing from families across the country, who are heartbroken about restrictions on visitations.
Mission View is connecting its seniors with loved ones virtually and through this designated window.
"Which is booked solid," Doria said. "It's not the same as sitting down and talking with your loved one, but it's the best we can do right now."
Mission View does allow seniors to visit with residents for group activities, but they must wear a mask and be socially distant when doing so.
AARP said the nursing home industry is lobbying for immunity against COVID-19 related illness and death lawsuits in California and Pennsylvania.