By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Death count doubles in Stanislaus County as Turlock nursing home sees an explosion of COVID-19 cases
Some customers in line at Ceres’ Wells Fargo Bank wear masks and some don’t. - photo by Jeff Benziger

The death toll from COVID-19 in Stanislaus County has doubled to 10, as five former and current patients at Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center have died from the virus.

The sixth and seventh death of Stanislaus County residents from COVID-19 were announced Monday by the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. They were an adult female and male, both with underlying health conditions.

Also on Monday, Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center announced the death of two former residents.

“One of our former residents passed away earlier today, whereas the other former resident passed away last week,” the center wrote on their website on Monday.

On Tuesday the center announced the deaths of three more individuals.

"One of these residents passed away while receiving care at a local hospital, while two residents passed away while receiving care at our facility. We now have had five current and former residents who tested positive for COVID-19 pass away. On behalf of the entire team at Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, we join these families in mourning the loss of their loved ones."

SCHSA said the eighth, ninth and 10th deaths in the county were two adult women and one adult man. All had underlying health conditions.

Late last week the center reported six positive cases — three in residents and three among the staff. By Tuesday, the number had ballooned to 94. Sixty-six residents and 28 staff members have tested positive. Eighteen residents and 39 staff members have tested negative. Test results are still pending for 39 residents and 93 staff members.

In the wake of the outbreak, Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has implemented new measures to try and protect staff and residents. A wing of the facility is being used to isolate the residents who have tested positive for the virus and another wing is being used for the residents that have tested negative. The center also is continuing to screen staff and essential medical personnel upon entry to the facility and fully outfitting them with personal protective equipment as appropriate for their respective duties. An onsite incident commander will be at the site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to address any immediate needs.

The biggest change the center is making is a suspension of admissions and discharges for a 14-day quarantine period in accordance with local and state health department guidance.

"Providing for the safety and well-being of our residents and staff remains our paramount priority," the center wrote on their website. "We are following all guidance set forth for privacy, patient care, employee safety and efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19, as provided by the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"We especially wish to commend our staff for their continued commitment to the care of our residents, particularly given the risks to their own health and that of their families. We truly are family serving families."

One of the first three residents at the center to test positive for COVID-19 was Brent Ocken. The Journal first wrote about Ocken in December when he was facing losing his home because of significant rent increases. Ocken has been going through the process of obtaining Section 8 funds, but in March he slipped and fell and broke his hip. He underwent surgery at Doctors Medical Center. At DMC his temperature was routinely checked and he was given a test, which was negative, prior to leaving the hospital. He was transferred to the Turlock Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about a month ago to start his rehabilitation therapy. On Wednesday he was tested for the virus and on Friday learned his results had come back positive.

"I wasn't sick until I got here," Ocken said during a phone interview. "The virus was here."

Ocken said he and his roommate, who also tested positive, have been isolated and all their therapies have stopped. He said they are both at the center and have not been to the hospital.

"All we do is eat, sleep and watch TV," Ocken said. "It kind of feels like we are lepers."

Ocken said he is currently feeling fine.

"I feel normal," he said. "I don't feel sick at all."

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency and the Office of Emergency Services are both monitoring the situation at the center and is ready to provide any needed equipment and assistance if needed, said OES spokesman Royjindar Singh.

Singh said the center had asked for more PPE, which was given and for the OES to come up with a potential staffing plan, should the need arise. A plan has been made, but so far, the center has not needed to enact it.

"We also want to offer our deepest gratitude to our community partners who have provided supplies, conducted testing and collaborated with our facility and staff to provide the very best care and treatment for our residents," the center wrote on their website. "We especially thank Lani Dickinson, CEO of Emanuel Medical Center, and Dr. Julie Vaishampayan of the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency for their commitment and leadership during these trying times."

The SCHSA is conducting contact tracing for the staff and residents. The cases will be counted for the city of residence for the patients and staff, which might not necessarily be Turlock or even in Stanislaus County.

Stanislaus County currently has 324 positive COVID-19 cases and 10 total deaths. Seventy-six people have been hospitalized and 224 people have recovered, according to the SCHSA.

There currently are 27 people hospitalized with either a confirmed case of COVID-19 or a suspected case. Of those, eight are in intensive care unit beds.

SCHSA reported the county has 56 percent of the hospital beds available, 37 percent of the ICU beds available, and 81 percent of the ventilators available for use.

Modesto has 102 reported cases, followed by 58 in Turlock, 36 in Patterson and 33 in Ceres. The number of cases in the unincorporated areas of the county has now been classified into the five districts and represents those areas outside of city limits. District 5, which is represented by Supervisor Jim De Martini and covers Ceres and the west side, has 22 cases; and District 3, represented by Supervisor Terry Withrow, has 17 cases. Riverbank has 12 cases, Newman 11, and District 2, represented by Supervisor Vito Chiesa, has eight. District 1, represented by Supervisor Kristin Olsen, has seven cases, as does Waterford. Oakdale has six cases and Hughson has five cases.

Individuals 20 years old or younger make up 5 percent of the cases in Stanislaus County. Those between the ages of 21 years to 30 years represent 10 percent of the cases. People between the ages of 31 years to 40 years and those from 41 years to 50 years each make up 21 percent of the cases. Individuals between 51 years to 60 years represent 20 percent of the cases and those from 61 to 70 years are 10 percent of the cases. People from 71 years to 80 years represent 8 percent of the cases and those 81 years to 90 years account for 3 percent of the cases. There currently are no individuals over the age of 91 years that have the virus in Stanislaus County.

Females make up 49 percent of the cases and males are at 51 percent.

Modeling projections for Stanislaus County differ on when the area may see a peak in COVID-19 cases. A version from Stanford shows the peak happening in April, while two others — Bayesiant and UC Davis — both show the peak happening in June and outpacing hospital bed capacity. Another model, from University of Penn, shows the peak happening in September and will not hit hospital bed capacity. SCHSA said the actual number of hospitalizations is tracking closely with the Stanford and University of Penn models and is an indication that social distancing efforts are having a positive impact in the county.

The SCHSA has partnered with Verily's Baseline COVID-19 Program to offer drive-through testing to residents. The testing is not just open to anyone arriving at the site. Residents can screen their symptoms and, if eligible, can make an appointment for testing at the Salida Library online by using the Baseline COVID-19 Program online screener and appointment scheduling system found at

This program is first focusing on high-risk populations as advised by national guidelines.

As Stanislaus County Public Health continues to work with the Emergency Operation Center in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic locally, it is critical that individuals and organizations take critical steps in slowing the spread of the virus by following all applicable guidance and recommendations, including:

·       Practice social distancing which means stay at least 6 feet away from others.

·       Avoid ALL non-essential activities that involve close contact with the general public

·       Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol for at least 20 seconds

·       Limit close contact with people who are sick. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from someone who is sick

·       Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

·       Do not share objects such as utensils, cups, food, and drink

People can receive updates about COVID-19 in Stanislaus County by texting STANCOVID19 (all caps) to 888777 to receive updates from the Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services.