County Warns of Covid Surge in Congregate Care Settings

With recent Covid-19 outbreaks at local juvenile detention facilities and a homeless shelter—and the number of cases surging at nursing homes—Santa Clara County officials are again imploring residents to follow protocols to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han headlined a press conference today about the recent and ongoing rise in Covid-19 cases in congregate settings.

Public health officials say they have seen sharp increases in all categories of such settings—including long-term care facilities, skilled nursing homes, homeless shelters and detention centers—in recent weeks.

The increase includes an outbreak discovered in late November at the Boccardo Reception Center emergency homeless shelter in San Jose. A total of 60 positive Covid-19 cases—four of them staffers—have been reported at the shelter since Nov. 23.

At the South Hall homeless shelter, a total of seven cases—including one staff member—have been reported since Nov. 18.

Han and other public health officials have noted that outbreaks and surges in cases in these settings are directly related to the overall increase in Covid-19 transmission throughout the community, which has continued to move upward since early November.

Typically, staff and clients at nursing homes and homeless shelters are members of the community who return to their families each day, further spreading the virus.

“These outbreaks are an unfortunate reminder that increases in community transmission of Covid-19 threaten our most vulnerable communities,” Han said. “Along with rising cases and increasing hospitalizations, this should serve as an alarm bell for each of us to take every possible step to reduce the spread of Covid-19.”

Outbreaks at congregate settings are difficult to prevent or control because the spaces don’t allow much room for social distancing, Han explained.

At the BRC shelter, as soon as the public health department learned of the recent outbreak, the county placed most clients who were exposed—including those who tested negative for Covid-19—into hotel rooms to isolate.

Shelter intakes were suspended at BRC and South Hall when the outbreaks were discovered, Han added. The outbreak at BRC is the largest that has occurred in any homeless shelter in Santa Clara County since the pandemic began in March.

“We’re here to ask the community to do everything they can to reduce the spread of Covid-19 by wearing your mask all the time, not gathering with people you don’t live with inside and keeping your distance,” Han said at the Thursday morning press conference. “We ask this not only to protect your friends, family and loved ones, but also to protect the most vulnerable members of the community.”

As of Dec. 3, there have been 1,837 cases of Covid-19 at 21 long-term care facilities—which include nursing homes—in Santa Clara County. These cases have resulted in 220 deaths, according to the county.

The press conference today also comes on the heels of news that at least 13 Covid-19 cases have occurred in two juvenile detention facilities—the William F. James Ranch in Morgan Hill and Santa Clara Juvenile Hall in San Jose. Nine of the cases were among youth detainees and four were staff members.

Overall in Santa Clara County—in all settings—there have been 36,673 Covid-19 cases since March, and 533 deaths related to the illness.

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