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Sonoma County’s death toll from coronavirus reaches 50

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Sonoma County health officials late Monday night reported three more virus-related fatalities, to bring the area COVID-19 death toll during the pandemic that began in March to 50 victims.

Each of the three latest casualties was over 65 and had underlying medical conditions, while two of them were residents of skilled nursing centers, officials said. And after a weekend of 239 new infections, the county reported 83 additional cases, boosting the overall coronavirus case tally over 3,750 countywide.

Meanwhile, a senior care center in Cloverdale became the fifth skilled nursing home in the county to report the death of at least one resident from complications of the coronavirus, an indication some area nursing homes continue to struggle to contain the infectious disease.

Cloverdale Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility, also reported on Saturday to state public health officials that at least one resident and one staff member tested positive for the highly contagious virus.

It was unclear Monday if the resident of the Cloverdale center was among the three coronavirus deaths county health officials reported Friday. One of the three fatalities involved a 65-year-old man who lived in an unidentified skilled nursing home and had underlying health problems.

Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer, earlier Monday called the additional deaths reported Friday “devastating for the community” and reaffirmed how deadly the virus can be for the county’s most vulnerable residents, particularly nursing home residents.

“It is the number one priority for the community,” Mase said Monday, of working with state infection control experts to try to get a handle on virus transmission in nursing homes. “We can all help to protect our seniors by abiding by the health orders.”

Of the 50 county residents who have died as of Monday from virus complications, 40 have been residents of senior care homes. Of those 40 people, 28 had lived in nursing homes and the others were in senior residential care facilities. With the Cloverdale facility’s fatality, a quarter of the county’s 20 skilled nursing homes now have at least one resident death.

Jarrod Morgan, an administrator at Cloverdale Healthcare Center, on Monday did not respond to a reporter’s phone calls and an email message requesting information about the virus outbreak there.

The other four nursing homes that reported at least one death related to COVID-19 are: Sonoma Post Acute and Broadway Villa Post Acute, both in Sonoma; EmPres Post Acute and Rehabilitation in Petaluma; and Petaluma Post-Acute Rehab. Senior care homes are required to report deaths and new infections to the California Department of Public Health, but exact numbers of deaths and fresh cases at each nursing home are shielded by the state for patient privacy until the tallies of deaths or infections reach 11 or more.

A state health department strike team of medical experts that came here last week will continue working on the ground this week with local nursing homes to try to help staff stop the spread of the virus, Mase said Monday during a press briefing.

“Hopefully they will end up visiting all the skilled nursing facilities, even if they don't have cases, looking at their infection control practices for prevention,” she said.

Meanwhile, county health officials reported 125 new virus infections Saturday — the largest single day of cases reported during the pandemic — and 114 more cases on Sunday — the third-highest daily tally — plus 83 more cases Monday to push the overall infection total to 3,753 countywide. About 1,600 of those cases have been reported since early July, as the virus has roared back causing Sonoma County to join the state’s watchlist of counties struggling most to suppress COVID-19.

Mase said the high case numbers represent continued local spread of the virus from large outbreaks at workplaces, households, senior care homes and large and small social gatherings of friends and extended family.

In a related matter, the health officer also discussed the state’s recently resolved technical glitch with its electronic COVID-19 data collection computer system, a problem that’s led to a backlog of nearly 300,000 virus test results across the state.

Mase said it’s unclear how many of the backlogged results involve Sonoma County residents. She said the backlog tests were processed by commercial laboratories like Quest Diagnostics that report results directly to the state. These tests are of a lower priority than the virus tests processed by the county public health lab.

Tests processed by the public health lab include those collected by the county’s contract tracers, and the lab’s work identifies most of the positive virus cases in the county, Mase said.

State public health officials Monday said they have finished working through the backlog of test results and have sent that data to county public health departments statewide for review. Mase confirmed her public health team is going through an undisclosed number of delayed tests involving local residents and trying to figure out the reporting date to assign each.

Early last week, she said daily COVID-19 case totals likely were inaccurate due to the glitch in the state’s electronic reporting. She hopes to fully update the county’s daily infection numbers sometime this week.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

Track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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