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Turlock care facility sees spike in COVID-19 cases
Turlock Nursing home
Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has seen a spike of COVID-19 cases over the past several days, including five deaths of current or former residents. (FRANKIE TOVAR/The Journal).

The number of positive COVID-19 cases at the Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center ballooned to 51 among the staff and residents with more than 200 tests still pending.

Late last week the center reported six positive cases — three in residents and three among the staff. On Monday, the center reported 34 residents had tested positive, 10 residents were negative and 87 test results were still pending. Among the staff, 17 had tested positive, 23 negative and 115 tests were still pending.

In the wake of the outbreak, Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has implemented new measures to try and protect staff and residents. A wing of the facility is being used to isolate the residents who have tested positive for the virus and another wing is being used for the residents who have tested negative. The center also is continuing to screen staff and essential medical personnel upon entry to the facility and fully outfitting them with personal protective equipment as appropriate for their respective duties.

The biggest change the center is making is a suspension of admissions and discharges for a 14-day quarantine period in accordance with local and state health department guidance.

"Providing for the safety and well-being of our residents and staff remains our paramount priority," the center wrote on their website. "We are following all guidance set forth for privacy, patient care, employee safety and efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19, as provided by the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"We especially wish to commend our staff for their continued commitment to the care of our residents, particularly given the risks to their own health and that of their families. We truly are family serving families."

One of the first three residents at the center to test positive for COVID-19 was Brent Ocken. The Journal first wrote about Ocken in December when he was facing losing his home because of significant rent increases. Ocken has been going through the process of obtaining Section 8 funds, but in March he slipped and fell and broke his hip. He underwent surgery at Doctors Medical Center. At DMC his temperature was routinely checked and he was given a test, which was negative, prior to leaving the hospital. He was transferred to the Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about a month ago to start his therapy. On Wednesday he was tested for the virus and on Friday learned his results had come back positive.

"I wasn't sick until I got here," Ocken said during a phone interview. "The virus was here."

Ocken said he and his roommate, who also tested positive, have been isolated and all their therapies have stopped. He said they are both at the center and have not been to the hospital.

"All we do is eat, sleep and watch TV," Ocken said. "It kind of feels like we are lepers."

Ocken said he is currently feeling fine.

"I feel normal," he said. "I don't feel sick at all."

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency and the Office of Emergency Services are both monitoring the situation at the center and is ready to provide any needed equipment and assistance if needed, said OES spokesman Royjindar Singh.

Singh said the center had asked for more PPE, which was given and for the OES to come up with a potential staffing plan, should the need arise. A plan has been made, but so far, the center has not needed to enact it.

"We also want to offer our deepest gratitude to our community partners who have provided supplies, conducted testing and collaborated with our facility and staff to provide the very best care and treatment for our residents," the center wrote on their website. "We especially thank Lani Dickinson, CEO of Emanuel Medical Center, for her commitment and leadership in helping us through these difficult times."

The SCHSA is conducting contact tracing for the staff and residents. The cases will be counted for the city of residence for the patients and staff, which might not necessarily be Turlock or even in Stanislaus County.

As of Monday afternoon, Stanislaus County has 312 positive cases and seven deaths.