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News >  Washington

Half of outbreaks in Washington have been in long-term care facilities, new state report says

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 4, 2020

On April 25, patients are transferred out of the Spokane Veterans Home at 222 E. Fifth Ave. to the more advanced COVID-19 care unit at the VA Hospital at 4815 N. Assembly St.  (TYLER TJOMSLAND)
On April 25, patients are transferred out of the Spokane Veterans Home at 222 E. Fifth Ave. to the more advanced COVID-19 care unit at the VA Hospital at 4815 N. Assembly St. (TYLER TJOMSLAND)

COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities make up about half of the recorded outbreaks in Washington, or 459 outbreaks, a new report from the Washington Department of Health shows.

Outbreaks in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and adult family homes peaked in April ; however, the virus continued to make its way into these settings throughout the summer as well. So far, 898 of the 1,600 state residents who have died from COVID-19 were associated with long-term care settings.

In Spokane County, 295 confirmed cases are associated with long-term care settings, and 33 of the 70 residents who have died from the virus were associated with an outbreak at a long-term care facility.

Over the weekend, Rockwood Retirement South Hill received results of its COVID-19 testing and found out that seven residents and five staff members tested positive.

One resident who tested positive and had underlying conditions died Friday.

Late last month, the Spokane Regional Health District announced that Royal Park Health and Rehabilitation in north Spokane had 32 cases.

Earlier, 46 residents of the Spokane Veterans Home tested positive during an outbreak at the Spokane Veterans Home. Eight of those residents died.

There have been 923 total recorded outbreaks in the state as of late July, and the Department of Health released a report that shows where and in what settings COVID-19 is spreading.

In long-term care facilities and health care settings, there is an “outbreak” when one person tests positive for the virus in that setting, whether they are a resident or a staff member.

In other settings, an outbreak is when two or more people test positive for the virus, and there is plausible evidence that transmission occurred there and not in one’s household.

There have been 53 outbreaks in health care settings, including hospitals and outpatient clinics around the state.

Other settings account for 411 outbreaks.

Among the top outbreak locations not related to health or long-term care settings are: agricultural and produce packing, food manufacturing, retail and grocery stores and food service and restaurants. There have been 57 outbreaks in produce packing and agricultural settings , 44 outbreaks in food manufacturing settings, 44 outbreaks in retail or grocery stores and 44 outbreaks in food service and restaurant settings.

Recorded outbreaks in non-health-care settings appear to have peaked in a week in late June, when 50 outbreaks were reported. Since then, there have been about 30 outbreaks a week.

Not all of the state’s novel coronavirus cases can be traced to outbreaks or can be epidemiologically linked by contact tracing.

In Spokane County, there is still community spread of the virus, although the data shows improvement in connecting cases in recent weeks.

Case data shows Spokane County went from about 38% of cases being epidemiologically linked to about 53% in the most recent week. Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said that jump was likely due in part to a lag in reporting brought on by a transition to new software but, he added, it also could be in part due to the added contact tracers in the county. There are nearly 50 people contact tracing in the county, including Spokane Regional Health District staff as well as Public Health Institute staff, whom the district hired to help for the rest of 2020.

While there might be improvements in linking cases, Lutz told reporters on Monday it is not back to levels it should be at.

“The numbers are much lower than we need to see,” Lutz said on Aug. 3. “Ideally I am able to trace 80 to 90% of cases, and if we’re hovering at 50%, that’s inadequate.”

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 74 new cases on Tuesday as well as four more deaths due to the virus.

There are now 4,069 confirmed cases, with a little more than half of those cases considered “recovered” by the district.

There are now 73 patients receiving treatment for COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals, and 49 of them are county residents.

The Panhandle Health District recorded 30 new cases on Tuesday, and there are currently 31 North Idaho residents hospitalized with the virus.

Fifteen people have died from the virus in North Idaho.

The Panhandle Health District has a total of 1,955 confirmed cases.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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