Two residents at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s retirement campus in Woodland Hills have died after testing positive for COVID-19, the chief executive confirmed Wednesday.
The victims were John Breier, 64, and actor Allen Garfield, 80, who appeared in such films as “Nashville” and “Stuntman.” Both men had compromised immune systems and were living in MPTF’s Mary Pickford House long-term care facility.
“It’s an insidious disease,” MPTF Chief Executive Bob Beitcher told the Business Journal on Wednesday. “Until we here on campus and in the wider population have a very fast testing capability, it’s hard to know who has it and who doesn’t.”
Beitcher said an additional six residents and four staffers have tested positive for COVID-19. About 250 entertainment industry retirees live on the Wasserman campus in Woodland Hills.
All six COVID-positive residents have been transferred to an emergency 18-bed isolation unit on the campus’ north end. Beitcher said staffers set up the temporary unit with beds, tables and equipment over two weeks in March in an out-of-commission wing formerly used for ambulatory surgeries and overnight stays for sick residents.
“They’re milder cases – not sick enough to go out to hospitals,” Beitcher said of the isolated residents. “Some of them are in their 90s, and their health care plans indicate they would not want to get taken to the hospital if the disease progresses.”
The COVID-positive staffers are self-quarantining in their homes. Beitcher said a company nurse is checking on them at least once a day.
“They’re younger and don’t have underlying health conditions. To my knowledge, they’re making their way through it,” he said.
MPTF reported its first case of COVID-19 – whom Beicher identified as Breier – March 31. Breier was transported to West Hills Hospital when his condition became severe before he passed away earlier this week.
Beicher said containing the outbreak is difficult for caretakers because of how long it takes for COVID-19 tests to show results and the frequency with which tests show false negatives.
He added his staff has been heroic in caring for residents while managing the outbreak.
“They’re amazing,” he said. “They’re stepping up, working hard, long hours. … It’s moments like this where you get to see the very best in people. That’s what we’re seeing all across campus.”