The Redwoods residential care facility has been given a clean bill of health following a norovirus outbreak that sickened 78 people, led to the hospitalization of six, and may have contributed to the deaths of two elderly residents.
Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis said the facility has been symptom-free for 48 hours, and precautions — which included restricting visitors and canceling group activities — have been lifted. The health department also visited The Redwoods today to administer flu vaccines to anyone who hasn’t received one yet.
“They’ve been given the green light and are back to business as usual,” Willis said. “With a couple exceptions.”
The Redwoods has implemented a new dining policy where staff wearing hats and gloves now serve all meals, as opposed to the previous buffet-style method where residents served themselves using their own utensils. In the weeks after the Dec. 24 outbreak, part of the quarantine required no group gatherings, so staff hand-delivered a total of about 8,000 meals meals to residents’ rooms, said Chief Executive Officer Barbara Solomon. She was traveling for three weeks during the outbreak and recently returned.
“Our staff was remarkable,” Solomon said. “It was great for me to come back and see how beautifully they kept things moving.”
The facility also had been using an approved non-bleach cleaning product, and switched to a cleaner containing bleach to more effectively eliminate surface germs.
“We’ve worked with the health department to come up with guidelines to make sure we’re doing everything correctly,” Solomon said.
The Redwoods has 300-325 residents in different levels of care, and hosts about 10-15 activities per day, from exercise classes to music programs, and everything in between. Solomon said they’re going to do a “soft start” to bringing back group activities starting on Monday, and will probably have a few events planned around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and showing the Presidential Inauguration
The norovirus is highly contagious and symptoms include dehydration, vomiting and diarrhea. There’s no vaccine or specific treatment, so prevention is key, Willis has said. The Redwoods community is continuing to follow protocols, especially frequent hand washing, and is encouraging all residents and staff to get their flu vaccine at today’s clinic, Solomon said. The facility has already had two clinics, and this will be their third.
The flu is also officially upon us.
In the first week of 2013, Marin recorded 19.8 percent positive influenza tests, crossing the 10 percent threshold that indicates that “it is actively circulating in our community, Willis said earlier this week. The county recorded 6 percent positive tesst for the final week of 2012.
“This is the very beginning of our influenza season, so this is a very good time to get vaccinated,” he said. “Anyone that gets it now will be protected for the vast majority of the season.”
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