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Spokane Veterans Home COVID-19 outbreak leads to eight hospitalizations, one death

UPDATED: Thu., Aug. 5, 2021

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Spokane Veterans Home has led to eight hospitalizations and one death after four staff members and eight residents tested positive since July 21.

The home will not release the vaccination status of each individual who has tested positive in the most recent outbreak, but figures show the majority of residents are vaccinated while the majority of staff are not.

Just 43% of staff at the Spokane Veterans Home, or 47 of the 110 employees, are vaccinated. Of the 81 total residents, just nine are unvaccinated, so 89% of the residents are fully vaccinated.

The Spokane Veterans Home does not require its employees to get vaccinated, and it is not clear how the virus got into the facility, according to spokeswoman Heidi Audette.

COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations are increasing in the Inland Northwest, and the more transmissible delta variant is circulating here too. The most recent state data show that the delta variant makes up 85% of all sequenced cases in the state as of mid-July, and 49 delta variant cases have been confirmed in Spokane County.

The majority of those who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, but as case rates increase and hospital capacity continues to tighten, health officials recommend that everyone wear masks regardless of vaccination status in crowded settings and indoor public spaces. For those who have yet to get vaccinated, health officials encourage you to do so, as the delta variant is highly transmissible and can mean more severe disease, particularly for those who have yet to get a vaccine.

In Spokane County, 55.4% of those who are 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

While breakthrough cases when people who are fully vaccinated test positive for the virus are very rare, and hospitalizations and death are rarer still in people who are fully vaccinated, 27 of the 52 deaths confirmed due to breakthrough cases so far are associated with long-term care facility outbreaks, according to state data.

People with underlying health conditions or who are immuno-compromised are still at higher risk of developing more severe disease, should they contract COVID-19.

Some hospitals and medical associations in the state have recommended that hospitals require their employees to get vaccinated.

The Spokane Veterans Home is run by the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, and while they are not bound by federal Veterans Administration vaccine requirements, the governor could impose a vaccine mandate in these facilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s office is currently looking into requiring state employees to be vaccinated, spokesperson Tara Lee wrote in an email, adding there is a lot of work that goes into it, involving state human resources and other agencies.

“We share the concern that those who care for vulnerable people should protect themselves and others,” Lee wrote.

Inslee last week said requiring vaccines for state employees is “a distinct possibility that we would require to some degree vaccination of our employees depending on what their job title is and what their environment is.”

The governor will likely have a press conference early next week to say more on it, Lee said.

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 272 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and no additional deaths.

There are 85 patients hospitalized with the virus in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 128 new cases on Wednesday and no additional deaths.

There are 46 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

S-R reporter Laurel Demkovich contributed to this report.

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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