Nine staff members and two patients at Laguna Honda Hospital have tested positive for coronavirus as of Monday morning. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Federal, state health officials visit Laguna Honda after coronavirus outbreak

Yee calls for ‘testing everybody there’

State and federal infectious disease experts are assessing the coronavirus outbreak at San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital, where city officials fear the number of infections may escalate.

Nine staff members and two patients at the long-term care facility have tested positive for coronavirus as of Monday morning, city officials said. The first case at the hospital with more than 750 patients was reported last week.

Mayor London Breed and Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, said Monday that the federal and state health officials came to the city-operated hospital upon their request for more resources to deal with the outbreak.

Breed had requested on Friday even more resources of the federal government in a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including 30 registered nurses and more testing equipment and personnel.

The facility cares for vulnerable persons who are largely elderly and cannot care for themselves and Breed fears a similar outbreak seen in other long-term care facilities.

“What we have seen from outbreaks in similar facilities, such as in Washington State, will only be magnified at Laguna Honda Hospital,” Breed wrote. “We urgently request the additional resources.”

Colfax also said that “Laguna Honda is setting up a field care clinic on its grounds as a precaution in case there is a need to separate groups of patients.”

He said there was “a growing outbreak of coronavirus” at Laguna Honda Hospital and that “we will continue to do everything we can to protect Laguna Honda’s residents and staff.”

Two infectious prevention nurses from the California Department of Public Health were at the hospital Monday to assess protocols around cleaning, use of personal protective equipment and safety measures for staff, city officials said.

“The California Department of Public Health is actively working with health facilities on infection prevention and infection control,” CDPH said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner. “We are providing recommendations in real time and may also provide additional facility-specific guidance in the future.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent two infectious disease doctors and two epidemiologists who will help with contact investigation to determine the source of the infection and the spread of the respiratory virus, city officials said.

“These experts are assessing the situation and will make recommendations for ongoing management of an outbreak that is expected to escalate,” Colfax said.

Since March 26, the department tested 158 staff themselves and two tested positive. Another 35 staff were tested by their health providers and seven tested positive. That brings the total of staff infected to date to nine.

The department tested 54 residents and two have tested positive, 51 negative, and one result is still pending.

He said the two patient care units where the cases have been diagnosed, South 4 and South 5, are under an “extensive quarantine order.” Colfax said the patients tested to date are in the South 5 unit. City officials said that testing is now “underway” for residents of South 4.

In each unit there are about 60 patients. The doors are now guarded by sheriffs to prevent patients from leaving and to make sure only authorized personnel enter.

“I expect more cases of coronavirus in the Laguna Honda community among both staff and residents,” Colfax said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in San Francisco increasd by 34 Monday, bringing the total to 374. There have been six deaths.

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee called for more testing at the hospital.

“One thing that we could do even more aggressively if we have the tools is actually to start testing everybody there,” Yee said. “We can’t be working in a vacuum. We can’t be guessing, ‘Oh where is the next person that is going to be positive?’ We have to get ahead of that.”

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