California

Keeping The COVID Plague At Bay: How California Is Protecting Older Veterans

Dr. Vito Imbasciani has been at war with viruses since he was 5.

Growing up near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York, he contracted polio in 1952 and couldn’t walk for two months. In medical school in Vermont 30 years later, he witnessed AIDS steal the lives of otherwise healthy gay men.

Now, Imbasciani, secretary of California’s Department of Veterans Affairs, and his staff are responsible for keeping the novel coronavirus away from the state’s eight veterans homes. California’s defenses are holding.

The explanation, many say, lies in CalVet’s intense preparation, quick response, attention to hygiene and leadership, starting with Imbasciani, a physician and retired colonel who not too many years ago could have been discharged from the military because he is gay.

“We created our own fortune,” Imbasciani said, looking to knock on wood.

Deaths are part of life in the state-run veterans homes. The

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Testing In California Still A Frustrating Patchwork Of Haves And Have-Nots

Months into the spread of the coronavirus in the United States, widespread diagnostic testing still isn’t available, and California offers a sobering view of the dysfunction blocking the way.

It’s hard to overstate how uneven the access to critical test kits remains in the nation’s largest state. Even as some Southern California counties are opening drive-thru sites to make testing available to any resident who wants it, a rural northern county is testing raw sewage to determine whether the coronavirus has infiltrated its communities.

County to county, city to city — even hospital to hospital within a city — testing capacity varies widely, as does the definition of who qualifies for testing.

Testing deserts, stemming from an overwhelmed supply chain and a disjointed public health system, have

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COVID-Plagued California Nursing Homes Often Had Problems In Past

When Jorge Newbery finally got through to his 95-year-old mother, Jennifer, on a video call April 18, she could barely talk or move and her eyes couldn’t focus.

It was the first time he had seen her since California nursing homes shut their doors to visitors a month earlier. Immediately after the video chat, Newbery called the front desk in a panic.

“I said, ‘You gotta get her out, you gotta call 911,’” he recalled. “She’s looking like she’s about to die.”

Newbery’s mother was living at the Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica, one of 198 nursing homes in California where at least one patient had contracted the coronavirus as of April 28, public health records show. The outbreak at the Rehabilitation Center has been worse than most, with 12 employees and 24 patients infected, including nine fatalities, according to the Los Angeles County health department.

The Rehabilitation Center shares

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California To Widen Pipeline Of Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners

Jane Gunter, a nurse practitioner in Tuolumne County, California, has long wanted to specialize in mental health so she can treat patients who have anxiety, depression and more complicated mental illnesses.

Her county, a rural outpost in the Sierra Nevada foothills with a population of about 54,000, has only five psychiatrists — “a huge shortage,” she said.

But Gunter, 56, wasn’t about to quit her job at the Me-Wuk Indian Health Center in Tuolumne and relocate to some distant campus for two years to get certified as a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Then, in February, she learned that the University of California was launching a new program to provide that certification online in just one year. She fired off her application, and last month she received an acceptance letter.

“Sometimes I think, ‘What are you doing?’” Gunter said, referring to the online classes that will take over her nights and weekends

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