Amid Outbreak, State Flooded With Safety Complaints From Workers

NBC 7 Investigates found one complaint regarding the death of an employee at a local nursing home where an outbreak was reported

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The impact of reopening the economy can now be seen in the number of health complaints that employees filed to state regulators. 

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA, has seen a major increase in the number of complaints filed by workers about unsafe working conditions since the COVID-19 outbreak began, according to state records obtained by NBC Bay Area. 

From February 1, 2020 through June 15, Cal/OSHA saw a 30% spike in the number of safety complaints, the vast majority of which were related to the pandemic. One-third of the nearly 3,000 complaints that Cal/OSHA received were from employees who worked in the healthcare industry. Retail, manufacturing, transportation, and restaurants were also high. 

As for San Diego County, Cal/OSHA received 11 health complaints, the most severe of which occurred at the same convalescent home in National City where an outbreak was reported. 

On May 28, state regulators received two complaints that a worker had died from complications of the novel coronavirus. 

Three of the 11 complaints were submitted in response to the fatality. 

NBC 7 Investigates spoke to the family of 94-year-old Esther Hernandez who died at the National City nursing home last month.

Hernandez’ granddaughter, Rebecca Niebla, told NBC 7 that administrators refused to share details about Hernandez’ condition. 

“We were uneasy about the whole situation,” said Niebla. “We wanted more details as to what was going on."

Less than a few days after Hernandez tested positive for the virus, Niebla said her grandmother’s condition deteriorated rapidly. 

“She was struggling to breathe. It was very, very hard for us to see that. We are not going to get her back,” said Niebla. “We know that she is resting now and in a better place but we want people to know and to create awareness of what's going on inside these facilities.”

The other nine businesses that are now under investigation for safety hazards include Kaiser Permanente’s Zion Hospital in Grantville, AT&T, and a dentist office in San Carlos.

A spokesperson for Kaiser told NBC 7 that “Kaiser Permanente is cooperating fully with Cal/OSHA on an investigation stemming from a single complaint in March regarding the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by staff at our Zion Medical Center.”

Representatives from Windsor Gardens in National City did not respond to our request for comment.

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