Rhoda Goldman Plaza senior home in San Francisco does not fall under the new city mandate to test all staff and residents. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
Rhoda Goldman Plaza senior home in San Francisco does not fall under the new city mandate to test all staff and residents. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)

Universal coronavirus testing set for S.F. skilled nursing facilities — and others want in

San Francisco health officials announced on May 1 that the city will now require all 21 skilled-nursing facilities — including the 374-bed San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living — to conduct widespread Covid-19 testing of residents and staff, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms. The city also announced that all asymptomatic frontline and essential workers now qualify for testing.

Meanwhile, officials at other Bay Area Jewish senior residences say they, too, want universal testing for their staff and residents — including those who are asymptomatic — but for the time being, they must wait until county policies expand to accommodate their populations.

In Danville, the Reutlinger Community has a skilled nursing unit and has so far conducted about 30 tests, according to CEO Jay Zimmer. He said he is in favor of comprehensive testing for all staff and residents at the Jewish senior facility.

Jay Zimmer
Jay Zimmer

“We’ve been advocating for this for some time,” he said.

But Contra Costa County, where Reutlinger is located, is prioritizing testing only for symptomatic individuals in “high risk” and “sensitive” settings, as of April 25. While testing has increased, the county’s health department is still facing shortages of tests and supplies “in some situations,” according to its website.

Rhoda Goldman Plaza, an assisted-living residence in San Francisco, does not have a skilled nursing unit and therefore does not fall under the new mandate. (S.F. assisted-living residents can be tested if they have at least one symptom of Covid-19.) But should the city make tests available for all senior facilities, a Rhoda Goldman spokesperson said, it will be glad to comply.

“The more information we all have, the better,” said health services manager Melanie Miguel.

The facility said it would be testing all of its staff but did not elaborate. “This is not something that happens overnight and I cannot share our logistics with you,” assistant executive director Adrienne Fair said. “As you can imagine, we are really busy right now with taking care of our residents.”

Quarantined residents of Moldaw Residences in Palo Alto greet each other from their balconies. (Photo/Frank Weiss)
Quarantined residents of Moldaw Residences in Palo Alto greet each other from their balconies. (Photo/Frank Weiss)

 

In Santa Clara County, Moldaw Residences spokesperson Kitty Haag said the Palo Alto senior community is following local guidelines, did not specify whether universal testing is planned. Moldaw offers independent and assisted living; it does not have a skilled nursing facility on the property.

The county health department currently recommends testing for, among others, asymptomatic residents of congregate living facilities and health care workers “if testing capacity allows.”

Recent widespread testing at Bay Area senior facilities has turned up numerous positive cases, many with no symptoms. In April, Santa Clara County conducted tests of staff and residents at three senior homes that were experiencing outbreaks of Covid-19, and found that one-third of those who carried the virus were asymptomatic staff members, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Testing at San Francisco’s skilled nursing facilities will take place over the next month, according to the health mandate, but SFCJL spokesperson Marcus Young said on Tuesday that the senior home had not yet been contacted by health officials about a plan or timeline.

The SFCJL is currently admitting recovering Covid-19 patients into its skilled nursing facility, per a state order from early April. On May 5, the home reported it was caring for nine Covid patients, all sent from area hospitals as part of an effort by the state’s health department to help free up beds for a potential surge.

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at gabriel@jweekly.com and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.