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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Higher caution applied to long term care to rein in COVID-19

Health district: goal is met at 80% of hospital beds full


Last updated 12/9/2020 at 11:27am

Jana Hill

Josephine Caring Community is one of the 44 facilities in the county with a COVID-19 outbreak and this is the second one, for that facility, since the pandemic began. The assisted living home is approximately 40 minutes from Mill Creek.

The Snohomish Health District is advising a higher level of caution for long-term care facilities to rein in an infection surge of COVID-19.

Approximately 500 cases at 44 facilities were recorded as of Dec. 2, the health district states. Part of those are occurring 40 minutes from Mill Creek at Josephine Caring Community where nearly 100 cases were recorded at the last count available from the health district, in late November. Josephine's website post on Dec. 4 said weekly testing showed more staff and residents have tested positive for COVID 19.

Cases in Snohomish County continue to surge, with the latest two-week case rate at 428 per 100,000 residents through Dec. 5. Hospitalizations have been hovering in the high-80s to low-90s each day, and the number of deaths has continued to increase.

The health district has responded by recommending the Phase 1 of the Long-term Care Safe Start Plan as a guiding document for the environments that care for older adults, in congregate settings. Those settings include skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. The goal is heightened infection control during periods of widespread virus transmission.

Officials are concerned not only about the vulnerability of high risk populations but the resources in hospital care being overwhelmed, leading to the potential to miss out on helping other patients in time, for heart attacks, car wrecks, and other ailments requiring emergency care.

The goal set by the health district for hospital capacity in the county is 80% of licensed beds filled, a level it reached for the Nov. 28 count. Heather Thomas, government affairs manager at the health district said COVID beds have a separate goal of less than 5%.

“The COVID beds used are more than double" what they should be, at at 11.3%, she told the Beacon midday Dec. 8.

Officials say COVID patients require a more resource-heavy level of care due to a need for more PPE and staffing, and the possibility of longer hospital stays.

More than 10,000 cases and nearly 1,500 deaths have been associated with long term care facilities in the state, according to a report by the Department of Health:

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Limits on assisted living for older adults will mean fewer in-person visits.

Age is a risk-factor for serious illness from COVID-19 with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting eight in 10 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 were people older than 65. Risk increases with each decade in association with the virus, with people in their 50s more at risk than those in their 40s. The highest risk population is over the age of 85. In high-risk populations, COVID-19 has caused hospitalizations, need for mechanical breathing assistance. Serious cases can mean the upper and lower lobes of the respiratory system are impacted, doctors say, and the illness can be fatal.

The Phase 1 plan limits visitation to outdoors with masks, and pushes for more testing and screening. For end of life visits or residents unable to participate in outdoor or remote visits, the visitation limit is once per day for compassionate care. The document also addresses PPE use as well as policies that allow residents to conduct visitations remotely. The safe start guidelines for long term care are located here:

Look for a full report in the Dec. 11 edition of the Mill Creek Beacon. Subscribe today:


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