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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Higher caution applied at long term care facilities

COVID-19 outbreak is 40 miles from Mill Creek


Last updated 12/11/2020 at 11:02am

Jana Hill

Josephine Caring Community had one-fifth of the long-term care facility COVID cases in early December and the infection rate hiked since then. The facility is 40 minutes from Mill Creek, and is one of 44 like it that face a tightening of restrictions for visitation and cleanliness. People over the age of 60 are at higher risk for serious illness from the virus.

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.

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:

As of Dec. 2, the health district count was 500 cases at 44 long-term care facilities. Part of those are occurring 40 minutes from Mill Creek at Josephine Caring Community where nearly 100 cases were recorded in late November, early in the agency's second outbreak since the pandemic began.

The most recently available count for Josephine was completed Dec. 2. Recorded to that date are 170 cases, 13 hospitalizations and 15 deaths, said Heather Thomas, government affairs manager at the Snohomish County Health District.

Josephine's website says the skilled nursing facility tests all patients and staff weekly and the week of Dec. 10 posted an update. "We had two new positive staff members and no new positive residents. We need to have no new positive residents or staff in order to be considered outbreak resolved."

Cases in Snohomish County continue to surge, with the latest two-week case rate at 428 per 100,000 residents through Dec. 5. The health district has responded to an uptick in case-counts by issuing different rules for long-term care: Phase 1 of the Long-term Care Safe Start Plan is the guiding document for agencies serving older adults, in congregate settings.

Those settings include skilled nursing and assisted living facilities.

Data shows close contact indoors can hike risk for viral spread. The health district is tightening COVID-related restrictions within long term care facilities that house older adults and those with ongoing medical conditions. Residents in long-term care are at higher risk for serious illness from the virus.

The goal is heightened infection control during periods of widespread virus transmission. Age is a risk-factor for serious illness from COVID-19 with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that eight in 10 deaths reported in the U.S. from COVID-19 were people older than 65. Risk for serious illness from the virus increases with each decade, with people in their 50s more at risk than those in their 40s. Age-related risk for the virus is highest for those 85 and older.

In high-risk populations, COVID-19 has caused hospitalizations, mechanical breathing assistance. Severe illness can, at its worst, be fatal or lingering. Officials are concerned not only about the vulnerability of high risk populations but the resources in hospital care being overwhelmed. Overpacked hospitals can lead to the potential to miss out on helping other patients in time for heart attacks, car wrecks, and other conditions requiring emergency care.

The Phase 1 plan pointed at long-term care tightens rules for long-term care facilities 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 document long-term care agencies will refer to is here:


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