A health care worker at the Spokane Veterans Home returned to work three days after being tested for COVID-19. The employee worked on Friday and Monday – when the test result came back positive.
The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs the nursing home at 222 E. Fifth Ave., said officials are working with the local health district and the employee is now self-quarantined at home.
“Additional environmental cleaning is taking place in areas of the building that the staff member worked in,” the department said in a letter to families and guardians Monday evening.
“We are in the process of developing a timeline to determine where in the building the staff person was while at work, which will help us determine next steps,” the department said. “We know that this news is difficult to hear and want to reassure you that we are doing everything within our power to keep your loved one safe and healthy.”
Residents of the facility will be checked for fevers and other symptoms every four hours for the next 14 days, and staff members will be expected to check their own temperatures twice a day, the department said. The facility has a COVID-19 screening area to help with those checks.
The department said the employee was tested on March 23 and “had no known contact with anyone who had tested positive for COVID-19.”
The employee returned to work on Friday after going 72 hours without symptoms, then worked a partial shift on Monday, when the department said it learned of the positive test result.
In an email Monday night, Heidi Audette, the WDVA’s communications and legislative director, confirmed the infected employee is a health care worker. She did not immediately have answers to other questions about the handling of the employee’s illness.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detail when and how health care personnel should return to work if they have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
Those guidelines say an ill health care worker should show an improvement in respiratory symptoms, a loss of fever and a negative test result, or they should wait three days after recovering from all symptoms, among other requirements.
The VA didn’t say whether the employee had worn a face mask or taken other precautions after returning to work, as the CDC urges.
The VA said it would clarify its protocols to state that any employee who has been tested for COVID-19 must show a negative result or be cleared by local health officials in order to return to work.
The Washington Department of Veterans Affairs is separate from the federal agency of the same name, which runs the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in northwest Spokane.
An outbreak of COVID-19 at a nursing home could be disastrous as seniors are more likely to die from the disease. Since late February, more than 80 residents have been infected and 35 have died at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington.
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