Pacific Gardens is slowly transferring memory care residents to other Bay Area care homes and expanding protective care following a COVID-19 outbreak in the retirement community’s memory care unit, Pacific Gardens CEO and owner Randy Zahodne confirmed to The Weekly.
“We are not evicting people as some are saying,” Zahodne said, and the facilities receiving Pacific Garden residents are fully informed of the reason for the transfers.
The move was necessary after the virus hit staff members working in the unit, reducing staff levels, Zahodne said. The home has reported 15 COVID-19 cases among staff and 13 cases among residents — slightly, but not significantly, higher than other similar long-term care homes.
“We fought hard to prevent this,” Zahodne said, “but when this hits, it hits hard. It’s overwhelming.”
New research confirms his observation, according to a report this week in the New York Times. The study found that COVID-19 spread isn’t a factor of the number of people who have it — like the flu — but on a small number of infected individuals, for reasons that aren’t clearly understood. Most infections, the study says, don’t contribute to the disease’s spread.
Pacific Gardens has enlisted the help of county and state agencies, as well as other area health care providers. The home put its COVID-19 protective measures in place a month before Santa Clara County’s Shelter-in-Place order.
“The county, the state — everyone has pitched in,” Zahodne said. “Kaiser [Permanente] has been very helpful. The state sent in nursing help and has been bringing in additional caregivers. They’ve been wonderful.”
For the time being, Pacific Gardens is testing all residents and employees regularly — as recommended by the CDC and the County Department of Health. Residents are staying in their apartments and masks are mandated at all times. With a very few exceptions — for example, end of life — no visitors are allowed. Group activities have been cancelled, and the community dining room is closed.
Pacific Gardens is actively communicating with residents and their families and friends. “We send updates daily, and we talk to any family that calls us.”
Even before the pandemic, a shortage of caregivers is looming over the U.S. as Baby Boomers age. COVID-19 is pushing that shortage into the present.
“It’s not that facilities are doing anything wrong,” a local senior care advocate who asked not to be identified as the person wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.
“The reality is that there is a shortage of care workers — another facility told me they had six employees call out sick on Monday. This can happen and it’s very unfortunate.”
There have been 539 COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County’s long-term care facilities, the vast majority of them — 469 — in nursing homes. Independent and assisted living communities and board and care homes account for only 11 percent of the 539 cases.
Santa Clara County’s requirements for care providers can be found at www.sccgov.org.