When it comes to Covid-19, Pasadena would appear to be extremely negligent. How else would you explain the disparity in the number of Covid-19 attributed deaths in nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Pasadena with those of other cities across the nation?

The gap is a big one. At the time of this writing, 65 of the 71 or 92% of all covid related deaths in Pasadena were either residents or employees of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. In contrast, Nationally, the number is 33%, while in Los Angeles County, the figure is currently 51%. This just doesn’t make sense.

What does make sense is that these facilities would be a problem area as it relates to the virus. Start with a mostly elderly group of people, many with chronic health conditions in a confined area where workers are moving from room to room. Combine that with a shortage of tests and personal protective equipment, especially at the outset of the pandemic and chronic problems with infection control in the best of times and it’s easy to see how the virus spreads in this environment. This isn’t just a Pasadena problem, it’s a nationwide problem, one that doesn’t seem to have a solution in place yet.

On April 12th, Pasadena issued a new order in an effort to stop Coronavirus outbreaks and fatalities in the city’s long term care facilities. The order directed all such facilities to follow infection prevention and control measures put in place by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and California Department of Public Health. These efforts have fallen well short of the mark. Instead of slowing the spread of the virus, the numbers climbed rapidly, surpassing even those of Long Beach, a city with over three times as many residents.

Even though Long Beach has almost twice as many positive test results than Pasadena, it has a lower total of deaths and much smaller mortality rate. That can only mean one thing. The City of Pasadena really dropped the ball when it came to protecting its most vulnerable citizens and those who care for them.

Perhaps the fact that Long Beach is pushing state officials to move more quickly than Los Angeles County in the reopening process could provide a partial explanation. Mayor Robert Garcia has said that Long Beach is ready to go forward because they have had no recent spikes, but they also have a backlog in test results dating back to April 1st. That would suggest the actual numbers are higher than what they are reporting.

Pasadena is supposedly following the same guidelines as Long Beach and many of our surrounding cities, and yet we are sadly leading them all in this most disturbing statistic. Efforts by some civic leaders to point blame in a variety of directions ring hollow. Implying that the poor results were due to a more systemic local approach to testing, City spokeswoman Lisa Derderian was recently quoted as saying “Higher rates reflect greater rates of testing, not poorer quality of infection control.” That might explain more positive test results, but in no way explains the tremendous increase in the number of covid related deaths in Pasadena since Mid-April.

Nor does pointing the finger at everyone but the city itself. According to Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, the health department gave “early and proper guidance to all elder care facilities” in coordination with city partners. She seeks to blame the facilities themselves for not always following the guidelines, and the city’s own lack of authority to enforce them. She implies that this authority really lies with the state government.That is absolutely ridiculous! If the city can shut down a restaurant for vermin infestation, they certainly have the authority to enforce healthcare guidelines within city limits, especially when people are dying.

Meanwhile, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Area restaurants are pitching in to help deliver meals to senior citizens at reduced rates, helping to reduce the need for seniors to leave home. Most importantly, although case counts have risen due to more extensive testing, they have leveled off over the past 4 weeks, and no deaths were reported in Pasadena this past week. Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, the city’s top health official said that the health department has conducted multiple rounds of testing of the residents and staff members in the area;s elder care facilities, and that they haven’t seen the wild swings that were common in recent weeks. In a city that hasn’t seen a lot of good news recently, that is welcome news indeed.

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