Coronavirus questions: I-Team digs into records of Orinda nursing home, scene of COVID-19 outbreak

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By Dan Noyes ABC7 News

ORINDA, Calif. (KGO) — A resident from East Bay nursing home Orinda Care Center died over the weekend after testing positive for novel coronavirus. He was among two dozen residents who’ve been infected there, along with several staff, making for one of the largest nursing home outbreaks in the state.

The ABC7 I-Team has been digging into the facility’s records. Advocates for nursing homes tell us this coronavirus pandemic is exposing long-simmering problems with oversight.

In exclusive video, crews in hazmat suits perform a deep clean for COVID-19 at Orinda Care Center. The I-Team was there Sunday to also see a nurse from the county arrive, her second day working at the facility.

County nurse: “Just helping.”

Dan Noyes: “Helping to clean things up and to test or-“

County nurse: “No, just to help with the patients.”

Dan Noyes: “Okay, great, thank you.”

County nurse: “Thank you.”

Dan Noyes: “I appreciate it.”

We also met a pharmacy driver who had to adjust to new rules.

“They put a box over there so I drop it there,” the driver said.

All these precautions are being taken after a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 died over the weekend. The county tells us he was already in hospice.

Three staff and 23 other residents have also been infected. Half of those cases are people over 80 years of age.

Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County Public Health, said Friday, “We know with COVID-19, the mortality and the seriousness of the illness is very much related to age as well as other illnesses, so that’s why we have a lot of concern about this population.”

Orinda Care Center is one of eleven facilities owned by Crystal Solorzano, who has a frequent presence on Instagram. Solorzano showed off new masks for her staff, “Alright guys, as we told ‘ya, we got masks.”

Records show in May of last year, the state revoked her nursing home administrator license “for unprofessional conduct … based on (her) using fraudulent documents” in applying for the license. But Solorzano is still permitted to operate homes including Orinda Care Center while appealing the decision.

Mike Dark, an attorney for the California Association of Nursing Home Reform, tells I-Team reporter Dan Noyes that the coronavirus crisis is exposing some serious problems.

“You, Dan, could go out tomorrow and buy a nursing facility and run it for years without being licensed,” Dark said.

Through a spokesperson, Solarzano at first agreed to an interview, but then backed out. We also wanted to ask about the record of violations at Orinda Care Center.

Among those violations are:

– August of last year, Public Health found they failed to meet minimum staffing requirements on 16 of 24 days checked.

– In July, the state cited Orinda Care Center for misuse of anti-psychotic drugs, and failing to properly sanitize tableware and cookware, putting the residents at risk of food-borne illness.

– In May, an investigation found the facility failed to keep a resident with dementia safe from sexual abuse by a housekeeper, who had two previous complaints of sexual abuse.

Through a spokesman, Solorzano says, “We believe these were unacceptable, but isolated, incidents. We’re doing everything we can to ensure they won’t happen again.”

The nursing home advocate primarily lays blame in Sacramento.

“The State Department of Public Health has let this happen for years,” said Mike Dark of CANHR. “It’s let this happen by being asleep at the wheel in terms of licensing these facilities.”