JOSHUA TREE — Testing for the new coronavirus is underway at the Continuing Care Center in Joshua Tree after one resident tested positive for the virus.
Residents and staff members have all been notified and are being tested for the virus, Tenet spokesman Todd Burke said Monday.
The Continuing Care Center is a skilled nursing facility run by the Tenet Healthcare corporation, the same company that leases the Hi-Desert Medical Center.
“The Continuing Care Center and Hi-Desert Medical Center have the appropriate personnel and the necessary equipment to treat patients and residents who may present with COVID-19 symptoms,” Burke said in a released statement.
‘I don’t know what to do’
After hearing about positive cases at nursing homes across the country, Sheila Danielle Ortega’s worst fears became reality Sunday afternoon, when she got a call from her mother, Rhonda.
“When I said “Hi, Mom,” it was silent for a few seconds,” Ortega said in an email interview.
“I heard her voice, shaky and quiet. She answered, ‘Hi, baby girl.’ I know that tone in her voice, I immediately knew something was wrong. I asked her if she was OK. Again it took a few seconds and she said, ‘There is a patient in here that is being quarantined; she had a fever.’”
Ortega’s mom said a nurse told her about the quarantine and added that facility staff would be keeping all the doors shut.
Ortega said the second time her mom called, she confirmed the news.
“She just said, ‘The patient tested positive, they just came in and confirmed it. I don’t know what to do, there is nothing I can do, I’m just stuck lying here … I just want to get out of here, I just want to go home.’”
Effective Monday, the Continuing Care Center stopped accepting new residents.
“The Continuing Care Center and Hi-Desert Medical Center are committed to keeping our residents, patients, staff and community safe, and will continue to follow guidance from the CDC, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health,” Burke stated.
Nursing homes called hotspots for spread
San Bernardino County has 530 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 16 deaths of county residents ranging in age from 42 to 95 have been associated with the disease, the latest Health Department numbers show.
As of Tuesday morning, there were five cases in the Morongo Basin: three in Yucca Valley and two in Joshua Tree.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday identified San Bernardino County as one of four nursing home “hotspots” in the state. There are 171 state-licensed nursing facilities in San Bernardino County caring for at least 6,600 of the county’s most at-risk residents.
Ortega’s mother has been at the CCC since the end of January. She was waiting at the CCC for hip surgery because she had developed a blood clot in her left calf from being immobilized for months.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she didn’t have many complaints about her stay at the CCC,” Ortega said.
Ortega said her mother has not been in contact with the resident who tested positive, but feared exposure could happen easily since she said the practice is to rotate nurses and staff throughout the facility.
“She just kept crying and saying, ‘This feels like a nightmare, this cannot be happening. The woman is in a different hall than me but Sheila, they rotate nurses and CNAs. I’ve probably been exposed,’” Ortega said, recalling the conversation.
“Now she is terrified that whatever nurses that were taking care of the COVID-19 positive patient, may have exposed her to it,” Ortega said.
Ortega said her heart sank when her mom confirmed the news of the positive case. She didn’t know what to say.
Trying to control her crying, she said her mom told her, “I’m going to go, baby, and try to rest. I love you.”
Ortega plans to monitor her mother’s care and the CCC.
“I will continue to check on my mother and I am going to call the facility and ask what their plan of action is to see that this doesn’t spread through the facility like wildfire and what is to be done to make sure this never happens again.”