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COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities are still sickening people in Inland Northwest

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 27, 2021

This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.  (HOGP)
This electron microscope image made available and color-enhanced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md., shows Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 virus particles. (HOGP)

Outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities increased in the past month with the surge of the more transmissible delta variant in Washington state.

Pinewood Terrace, a skilled nursing center in Colville, had a nearly monthlong outbreak that resulted in 74 people testing positive for COVID-19.

Nearly every resident in the facility tested positive for the virus, in addition to 22 staff members.

Of the 59 residents, 52 tested positive for COVID-19, and five died as a result of the outbreak. Four of the five residents who died were not vaccinated.

“The amount of suffering happening in our community with that little nursing home makes me sad, and it’s hard for me not to cry,” Northeast Tri County Health Officer Dr. Sam Artzis told reporters on Friday.

The silver lining of the outbreak at Pinewood Terrace, health officials noted, is that the vaccines saved a lot of lives. There were 33 breakthrough cases, in which people who were fully vaccinated still tested positive.

“I think what one of the really important things to stress in this conversation was the fact of, if you do a comparison of what long-term care facilities experienced in 2020, prevaccine availability, and now, is that, yes, there were breakthrough events, but those vaccines administered to those individuals helped considerably lessen the severity of symptoms and made it so more people did not pass away,” said Matt Schanz, administrator of the Northeast Tri County Health District.

Long-term care facilities in Spokane County have also experienced outbreaks in the past month.

The Spokane Veterans Home had an outbreak that began in late July and resulted in 53 cases in staff and residents.

Six residents died after testing positive for the virus as a result of that outbreak.

Just 50% of staff members at the Veterans Home have been vaccinated, but by next month the entire staff will have to be vaccinated under the governor’s statewide health care vaccine mandate.

The Veterans Home is not the only facility in the county with cases.

Lakeland Village reported 70 COVID-19 cases from August until this week, and 50 of those cases are in staff members, according to the Developmental Disabilities Administration.

The vast majority of residents there are vaccinated.

There are 28 long-term care facilities reporting 498 COVID-19 cases from outbreaks happening in the past month, according to data from the Spokane Regional Health District. There are four adult family homes with a dozen cases.

While vaccinations are protecting residents during these outbreaks, those who are older and have underlying health conditions are still at higher risk for hospitalization should they contract COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Department of Health, are recommending those people who are most vulnerable get a booster dose of the vaccine they received when it becomes available.

On Friday, the Department of Health authorized Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses for certain people after the Western States Scientific Safety Review Group reviewed federal data.

People who are eligible to receive a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must have received the Pfizer two-dose vaccine at least six months ago.

Here’s who is eligible and should get a booster dose, according to the Department of Health:

  • People 65 and older
  • People 18 and older living in a long-term care setting
  • People 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions, or those at increased risk of social inequities

The Department of Health also said the following individuals may receive a Pfizer booster dose:

  • People who are 18 to 49 years old with underlying medical conditions
  • People who are 18 to 64 years old who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their occupational or institutional setting (like health care workers).

Here’s a look at local numbersThe Spokane Regional Health District reported 333 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths on Friday.

There have been 832 deaths due to COVID-19 in Spokane County residents.

There are 204 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Spokane hospitals.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 168 new COVID-19 cases and no additional deaths on Friday. There are 111 Panhandle residents hospitalized with the virus.

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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