'Exhausting stress' for healthcare workers as coronavirus cracks defenses at skilled nursing facility

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the coronavirus crisis comes into sharper focus in the Central Valley, we're seeing new trends at one of the most dangerous places for it to spread.

"The challenge, the feeling, the exhaustion is there every day," said Maria Xiquin of SEIU Local 2015, which represents healthcare workers at skilled nursing facilities.

Fresno County recently reported the first death of a healthcare worker at a skilled nursing facility.

The Dycora Fresno employee is one of at least 31 workers at the facility to contract coronavirus.

State public health data shows 21 of 32 Fresno County skilled nursing facilities have had healthcare workers test positive.

A lot of them go to work scared.

"Because they are exposed every single day," said Xiquin. "And there's two layers to that. If they're exposed, they're bringing it home. If they're exposed and have it, they're going to give it to whatever patients they're taking care of."

A Dycora spokesman told Action News they're diligent in protecting patients and employees.

The downtown Fresno facility has the county's biggest problem spot with 116 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and 33 of them dying, according to state data.

The Dycora Manchester facility has had 20 patients get sick and a couple deaths.

But overall, the county's skilled nursing facilities have succeeded in minimizing exposure.

Evergreen Care Center is the third and last of the 32 sites reporting deaths. And only eight of them have had any patients get sick.

Management at Dycora and elsewhere say they're doing the required testing on all patients.

But healthcare workers say skilled nursing facilities are not as safe as they could be, especially on their end.

"Adequate PPE is still not there," said Xiquin. "Some members are being asked to use a mask for a day, an N95, even if they break."

Nursing homes are also losing patients to hospice and home health care.

Hospice care facilities can only take people with six months or less left to live, but those months can be very lonely at a skilled nursing facility where contact is limited or prohibited to prevent spreading the virus, so families are choosing to move their loved ones.

The healthcare workers they'd leave behind say they're working extra hard through the crisis in spite of the elevated risks.

Watching the case count rise inside their facilities has them promoting a little protection for everyone.

"Use your masks," said Xiquin. "Use your masks because as we see the numbers growing, we know that it's just going to be bad for all of us."
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