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News: 07/15/2020

With eight COVID cases at Oakmont Gardens, OVA delays reopening gym, other facilities



Oakmont was well on its way towards reopening its gym and other indoor facilities, but as the number of positive tests for COVID-19 shot up, word got out that eight residents and one staffer at Oakmont Gardens assisted living facility had joined the list.

Although no one at the Gardens had yet developed symptoms, Oakmont's board of directors on July 6 put off a decision on reopening at least until July 21. As it turned out, the board only learned of the situation about two weeks after the staffer tested positive.

The eight residents have been released by the Health Department and they continued to be asymptomatic as of July 10.

In an odd symbiotic relationship that dates back to Oakmont's founding a half century ago, all 167 Gardens residents are voting members of the Oakmont Village Association, but the Gardens is not part of the Association itself. Instead it is owned and operated by MBK Senior Living (MBK). And while the Gardens is situated directly across White Oak Drive from Oakmont's gym, library and Berger auditorium, the two organizations have never really communicated all that well.

"With the Gardens unable to restrict residents from leaving the building, we could have people coming to the fitness center and being there without anyone knowing they are carriers," said Oakmont resident Harriet Palk in wide-ranging comments to the board. Opening indoor facilities, she added, has "the potential to open the door for a COVID-19 outbreak in Oakmont."

Board president Steve Spanier agreed, saying "I think that Harriet's statement is pretty much right on." He said he was particularly worried about new aerosol studies that indicate even six feet of social distancing is not sufficient to prevent viral spread.

OVA first heard of reports of positive virus tests in the Gardens from residents in the community, and the positive tests were then confirmed upon inquiry to MBK. The Gardens management cannot impose mandatory isolation on its residents, including the 57 in assisted living. However, the company has been urging residents to follow health protocols regarding the virus since March, according to Constance Sablan, spokesperson for MBK. Dining facilities and other community activities had already been suspended in all MBK facilities in mid-March as a precautionary measure, she said.

It is not clear how the virus got into the Gardens, or why Sonoma County health officials did not immediately begin contact tracing after MBK reported that an employee had tested positive. Instead it was left up to MBK to test its residents. The county stepped in to test and trace only after the eight positive tests turned up. As a matter of policy, the county health department does not offer detailed comment on specific cases or situations.

"Our eight residents have been released by the Health Department and they continue to be asymptomatic," said Pamela Hardesty, Regional Director of Operations for MBK. "We have not yet received the test results from the tests conducted this week by the County Health Department."

The staffer has recovered from the virus but is not currently working.



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