Liv Vets 5-22-09 010

The Livermore Community Center, which sits on the Livermore VA hospital campus (seen here), experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. (Photo - Doug Jorgensen)

A spokesperson for the Department of Veterans Affairs Sierra Pacific Network recently confirmed that the Livermore Community Living Center (CLC) is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19.

“The Livermore Community Living Center (CLC) is investigating 16 residents and 15 employees who have recently tested positive for COVID-19,” said Armenthis Lester, the network’s chief communication manager. “The veterans who tested positive have been transferred to the Palo Alto VA hospital for care. To date, one Livermore CLC veteran has died due to COVID-19 complications.

According to Lester, employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms are immediately isolated to prevent potential spread to others, per CDC guidance and VA protocols.

“Currently, all Livermore CLC residents and staff are tested for COVID-19 every three to four days,” Lester said. “Our employee occupational health team is assisting in tracking employee movements within the CLC to prevent further spread of the disease. This ‘track and trace’ approach is an infection control and prevention standard operating procedure any time we identify a staff member who tests positive.”

In the statement from the VA, Lester said the Livermore CLC continues to use personal protection equipment (PPE) in accordance with CDC guidelines; all employees have the appropriate PPE.

“Per CDC guidance and VA protocols, anyone who enters the Livermore CLC is screened for COVID-19,” Lester said. “Additionally, the CLC has implemented a universal masking policy for staff and residents. Those who do not have a mask are provided one.”

However, an employee who would only speak on the condition of anonymity said that more could have been done to prevent the outbreak.

“We got no personal protective equipment (PPE) until the end of April, and even now, the hospital is not providing anyone with N95 masks at all,” said the employee. “I was at work very recently, and I saw at least one employee and three patients without masks. This spread of infection could have been prevented if they had required masks sooner and at least tried to adhere to social distancing measures, especially in the building housing the elderly veterans. Lots of employees have felt unsafe and that the patients weren’t safe for a while now, and I have no doubt that (the administrators) didn’t do everything they could have done to keep this from happening.”

According to the CDC, given their congregate nature and resident population served (e.g., older adults often with underlying chronic medical conditions), populations like those at the CLC are at high risk of being affected by respiratory pathogens like COVID-19 and other pathogens, including multidrug-resistant organisms (e.g., Carbapenemase-producing organisms, Candida auris). As demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a strong infection prevention and control (IPC) program is critical to protect both residents and health care personnel (HCP).

“Facilities should assign at least one individual with training in IPC to provide on-site management of their COVID-19 prevention and response activities because of the breadth of activities for which an IPC program is responsible, including developing IPC policies and procedures, performing infection surveillance, providing competency-based training of HCP, and auditing adherence to recommended IPC practices,” states their website, at cdc.gov.

Representatives for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2110 had no comment at the time of publication.