Maple House II, an assisted living facility in Live Oak is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, officials say.
Maple House II, an assisted living facility in Live Oak is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19, officials say.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
COVID 2021

County’s 28th COVID-19 death a result of Live Oak nursing facility outbreak

Santa Cruz County health officials have reported that a 28th person — a woman who contracted the virus during an outbreak at a Live Oak nursing facility — has died of the coronavirus as cases continue to surge countywide.

Corinne Hyland, the spokesperson for Santa Cruz County Health Agencies, said that the death occurred on Nov. 14. The woman was in her mid-90s. COVID-19 was an “intermediate” cause of death, as she had another significant health condition.

The woman was a resident at the Maple House II skilled nursing facility in Live Oak. Maple House II has been the site of a COVID-19 outbreak in which 11 employees and 14 residents have tested positive. This is the first death related to that outbreak.

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Climbing case rates pushed Santa Cruz back into the purple tier of coronavirus restrictions just two days after this death occurred. County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel recently told Lookout she expects the county to remain in the purple tier for the rest of the year, especially as the holidays could drive spikes in infections. As this new wave of infections hits the county, more deaths are almost certain, and nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among the most at risk.

“I would anticipate we’ll have higher positivity rates, higher case rates, higher hospital census, more deaths of our most vulnerable communities getting ill,” Newel said. “So our skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, unfortunately.”

Nursing home residents have already accounted for about half the deaths in Santa Cruz County. The Maple House outbreak followed an even larger one at the Watsonville Post-Acute Center nursing facility that has resulted in more than a dozen deaths. A majority of Watsonville Post-Acute Center residents — 50 out of 74 — had tested positive for COVID-19 between mid-September and Nov. 11, according to a lawsuit announced Monday by the family of Donald Wickham, 94, who died Oct. 20 from the virus.

At Maple House II, a total of 11 employees and 14 residents tested positive, with the first case being discovered at the end of October, according to Corinne Hyland, the County Health Agency spokeswoman.

Through a state government program, Northstar Senior Living, a company that operates several senior communities, is consulting with Maple House II to help get the outbreak under control and prevent new cases.

Steve Kregel of Northstar is managing this work at Maple House. He says as of last week, the community is COVID-free; no residents or staff have tested positive. Kregel is helping put in place protocols to help ensure that the Thanksgiving holiday doesn’t lead to any new cases.

“With the recent restrictions in the state we’ve stepped up our protocols as well,” Kregel said. “[But] we still have to have some sort of visitation for the residents,” and it is within their rights to leave the facility for a holiday dinner, even if it is strongly discouraged. So visitation is allowed through the window, or in a room separated by plexiglass. If a resident leaves for Thanksgiving they must quarantine for several days and then be tested multiple times.