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Posted on: March 10, 2020

Health District investigates COVID-19 cases involving patients linked to long-term care facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 10, 2020                                
CONTACT:   Heather Thomas, 425.339.8688,  hthomas@snohd.org

Health District investigates COVID-19 cases involving patients linked to long-term care facility

Josephine Caring Community is coordinating with public health on infection control

STANWOOD, Wash. – The Snohomish Health District is investigating multiple confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) involving residents of Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood. 

Three residents have tested positive for the virus and were transported to the hospital. 

The first patient was tested while at the hospital. Test results came back late Sunday and officials at the long-term care facility have been coordinating with public health officials to implement additional infection control measures. These include restricting new admissions and discharges, with the exception of transfer to acute care hospitals. Meanwhile, all group activities and group dining for residents are suspended. Staff are also conducting checks for all patients at the facility every four hours.

Additional tests have been collected for seven patients and two staff members associated with Josephine Caring Community. Those specimens were submitted to the state Public Health Lab. Five are pending and two have come back positive, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases associated with the facility to three: a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 90s, and a man in his 80s.

We anticipate additional staff and residents will be tested, and we will begin releasing updated counts linked to Josephine Caring Community on our website starting tomorrow (March 11).

Long-term care facilities serve people who are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19 compared to the general population. This morning, Governor Jay Inslee announced new rules around nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These rules affect visitors, staff and volunteers, including limitations on visits and requirements that visitors, staff or volunteers be screened for symptoms like fever and cough.

Limitations on visits can be distressing for families with loved ones in long-term care. The Snohomish Health District has partnered with the American Red Cross to activate a system called Safe and Well, which the Red Cross has used in disasters to help people notify their loved ones that they are OK. This online system would allow families to check in virtually on their loved ones in long-term care. Josephine Caring Community is coordinating the use of that website for their residents and families.

Josephine Caring Community also hosts a child care center. The child care center has put measures in place to keep the children separate from long-term care center residents. Terry Robertson, CEO of Josephine Caring Community, also stated that intergenerational activities where the children interact with residents have been suspended for the last couple of weeks as a preventive measure. 

As the number of cases of COVID-19 increases in Snohomish County, questions around testing have become more frequent. The Health District is working daily with the health care and emergency response system to coordinate efforts around COVID-19.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation with a new virus and uncertainty in how best to manage it, even at the highest levels of knowledge and ability,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, interim health officer for the Snohomish Health District. “National and state experts are close at hand guiding and advising us in the response, but there is no magic bullet and it won’t end soon.”

The District is working to remove barriers to testing and urging people to continue to watch for updates on this topic as more resources are made available.

Still, the health care system must be able to prioritize patients who are severely ill and need urgent care. People can help by staying home and away from others if they are sick, even with mild symptoms like a cough or fever. They should rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious food, and avoid work, school or other activities.

Snohomish Health District Interim Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters and Josephine Caring Community CEO Terry Robertson provided information on the COVID-19 response during a press conference at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 10. That conference is available to view at www.facebook.com/SnohomishHealth

The Snohomish Health District is continuing to update its website frequently. This includes topical blogs that I would encourage the community to read. One released on Friday shares a little more insight related to school closures, and another one published this morning discussing the current and planned status regarding testing capacity.

The health and safety of Snohomish County remains the Health District’s top priority. The community is encouraged to help prevent the spread of illness and to support the response to this outbreak by staying informed and sharing reliable information. This is a very fluid situation and information will be updated at www.snohd.org/ncov2019 and the Health District’s social media channels. 

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