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Two more residents at Spokane Veterans Home test positive for COVID-19

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 14, 2021

Two more residents of the Spokane Veterans Home pictured, have tested positive for COVID-19.  (JESSE TINSLEY)
Two more residents of the Spokane Veterans Home pictured, have tested positive for COVID-19. (JESSE TINSLEY)

Two more residents at the Spokane Veterans Home tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

They are both being treated at the home, however, and do not require hospitalization at this time.

Since July 21, 36 residents and 23 staff members at the home have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least two residents have died.

All staff at the long-term care home are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in accordance with the governor’s mandate, and even as recently as this week, those numbers are increasing.

Currently, 88% of staff at Spokane Veterans Home are vaccinated, leaving just 15 staff members who have yet to either verify their vaccine status or have yet to be vaccinated.

Of those 15 staff members, five are in the process of being vaccinated, Veterans Affairs spokeswoman Heidi Audette confirmed this week.

Of the medical and religious exemptions made at the Spokane Veterans Home, none have resulted in accommodations as of Oct. 12, according to data from the Office of Financial Management. That’s the process where an employee is allowed to keep working without being vaccinated, but with new assignments or protocols to promote safety.

On Monday, all health care and state workers will need to be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption and accommodation to comply with the governor’s mandate.

In recent weeks, vaccination percentages have increased at hospitals and state agencies as well.

Other long-term care settings that are not run by state agencies are also subject to the mandate, but currently there is no statewide collection on vaccination rates in these facilities. Some nursing homes, subject to federal data reporting requirements, have reported their vaccination percentages to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.

Long-term care settings had staffing challenges long before the vaccine mandate and even before the pandemic.

“Many residents of long term care homes are still in lock down, with few if any visits allowed from friends and family, and COVID continuing to spread. While most facilities have worked hard to stop the spread of the virus, too many residents are still at risk,” Patricia Hunter, state long-term care ombudsman, said in a statement.

The state ombudsman office, as well as the Washington Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities in the state, both supported the vaccine mandate.

“Even with greater vaccination, there are weaknesses in our system that put too many long term care and nursing home residents on unstable footing and continue to threaten the quality of care residents have a right to,” Hunter said in a statement. “Some homes in our state have announced they will close, and many others are at risk, often because they are short staffed. They are short staffed not because of the vaccine mandate, but because working conditions are not good – pay is low, turnover high, and too many privately owned long term care homes put profits over people.”

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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