An official at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has offered insight into ongoing concerns surrounding skilled nursing facilities (SNF), including the Kei-Ai Nursing Homes.

Zachary Rubin, M.D. works in Acute Communicable Disease Control in the county’s Healthcare Outreach Unit, and while he could not comment on any specific ongoing investigations, he was able to discuss general issues the unit has been managing.

Rubin was responding to a request for information sent by Dr. Ken Hayashida, a member of the Community Advisory Board mandated by the State Attorney General’s Office as a condition of the sale of the former Keiro facilities to Pacifica. Rubin said the county had worked with SNFs to prevent and prepare for COVID outbreaks at their centers.

“These designated facilities were able to establish these zones to support other SNFs in crisis and to keep them from admitting all COVID cases to acute care hospitals and lead to a surge in hospitalizations,” Rubin wrote. “Additionally, these designated facilities helped establish a location to which acute care hospitals could send patients who were still infectious, but no longer required hospitalization.”

Rubin said that while Kei-Ai had put extensive infection control measures into place early on, the company’s facilities are among the many such centers that have suffered from the current county-wide surge:

“Kei-Ai has operated a separate floor with separate staffing as their COVID isolation unit, which allowed the facility to keep COVID-positive patients physically separate from COVID-negative patients. Kei-Ai has been highly engaged with LAC DPH and was one of the first SNFs in L.A. County to adopt universal masking and regular facility-wide COVID testing of staff and residents.

“Like other facilities that were relatively spared earlier in the pandemic, Kei Ai has had a large outbreak during the large surge we are currently experiencing in winter 2020-2021. Though it is unclear why so many SNFs have had outbreaks during this winter surge compared to the smaller surge over the summer of 2020, we have seen a large number of severe SNF outbreaks again.”

Rubin said the outbreaks are occurring despite extensive work by the county and state health departments.

“The current goal is not only to reinforce infection control, frequent facility-wide testing and other tools, but to vaccinate SNFs as rapidly as possible to protect staff and residents,” he said, adding that strategies such as allowing licensed facility staff to administer vaccinations.

“We are pleased with the progress of vaccinations at our skilled nursing facilities,” he said. “Among 54,500 eligible residents and staff at 322 skilled nursing facilities that completed last week’s survey, 67 percent of employees and 66 percent of residents have been vaccinated.”

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