Photo by Kit Karzen

Nine Santa Monicans and 11 people who resided in the city’s nursing homes have died of coronavirus as of Tuesday night.

Los Angeles County launched a dashboard Tuesday that provides information about deaths in specific cities and communities for the first time, although it does not specify when deaths occurred. It is also not known how many individuals who died in Santa Monica nursing homes lived in the city and therefore are included in its death toll.

What the dashboard does reveal is that Santa Monica has a higher death rate than other Westside cities, even adjusted for age distribution.

Santa Monica’s adjusted death rate is 7.3 per 100,000 people, while Beverly Hills’ is 6.03, Malibu’s is 4.47, West Hollywood’s is 3.55 and Culver City’s is 3.54. L.A. County’s overall death rate is 9.9 — the highest of any county in the state.

“While the novel coronavirus has changed our lives, none are more deeply impacted than Santa Monicans grieving the death of a family member or friend,” Mayor Kevin McKeown and Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said Wednesday in a joint statement. “Our hearts are heavy as we extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of residents who have passed because of this deadly virus. Let us all remain vigilant in protecting ourselves and one another, including the most vulnerable in our community.”

Across L.A. County, 92% of people who have died had underlying health conditions, 75% were older than 65 and 60% were male, according to the dashboard.

African Americans, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and Latinos are most likely to die from COVID-19, with death rates about double that of whites, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said earlier this week. People living in poor communities are dying at about three times the rate of those in affluent communities. 

“These trends are of great concern and suggest more affluent residents have better access to COVID-19 testing and treatment services, even as the rates of infection appear to be higher in lower income communities,” Ferrer said Wednesday. “The findings also highlight the urgent need for more intensive efforts to expand culturally competent testing, treatment and prevention strategies in the African American, Latino and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, as well as in low income communities.”

In Santa Monica, 1,423 people have been tested, putting the city’s adjusted testing rate at about 1,628 per 100,000 people, according to the dashboard. About 11% of those, or 157 people, have tested positive as of Wednesday. The number of confirmed cases increased 13% over the last week after increasing 42% the week before.

Malibu and Beverly Hills have a higher testing rate, at about 4,556 and 1,852, respectively. West Hollywood’s rate is 1,509 and Culver City’s is 1,292. 

The closest public drive-through testing site to Santa Monica is at the West Los Angeles Veteran’s Administration campus. Private hospitals and medical practices are also providing testing.

Until last week, public health officials recommended that only people with COVID-19 symptoms be tested.

On Wednesday night, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all residents, including those without symptoms, could be tested for free at the city’s testing sites. 

Ferrer last week mandated nursing homes with outbreaks to test both asymptomatic and symptomatic residents and staff. She also said the county would distribute personal protective equipment to nursing homes.

As of Tuesday night, eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and three residents of Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab had died from COVID-19, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Across L.A. County, 47% of people who have died from COVID-19 resided in nursing homes and other institutional settings, Ferrer said Wednesday. 

Twenty-four patients at The Rehabilitation Center and 21 at Beachwood have tested positive, as well as three at Brentwood Healthcare Center, seven at Ocean Pointe Healthcare Center and four at The Manor, a residential care facility for adults with mental disabilities. 

Every facility except for The Manor also has between three and 12 confirmed cases among staff.

Lisa Hin, whose mother has resided at Beachwood for seven years, said she is concerned that the county only began requiring nursing homes with outbreaks to test asymptomatic residents and staff last week. Her mother has underlying conditions that would put her at a high risk of death if she contracts COVID-19, she said.

Beachwood administrator Anton Novitsky said the facility has been testing residents by floor and is now waiting on test results for the last floor. The facility has nearly 200 residents, he said.

Hin said she has been generally happy with the level of care Beachwood provides, but believes that cross-contamination in a setting such as a skilled nursing facility is impossible.

“The asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic folks now testing positive had been spreading the infection for the last month,” she said.

Hin said she thinks the county should provide additional manpower — for example, expanding its use of the National Guard, which was deployed last week to several nursing homes in L.A. County — to help every facility test all residents and staff.

“It is a crisis situation and I’m not sure any congregate setting has gotten it right,” she said. “I’m more disappointed by the state and federal governments for not stepping in to assist the most vulnerable populations.”

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