On March 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report stating staff members of the Life Care Center of Kirkland assisted in the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Introduction of COVID-19 into a long-term residential care facility in Washington resulted in cases among 81 residents, 34 staff members, and 14 visitors; 23 persons died. Limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to intra-and interfacility spread,” the report reads.
On Feb. 27, a local health care provider notified Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) of a patient whose symptoms met the testing criteria for the coronavirus (COVID-19). By the following day, a 73-year-old Life Care resident tested positive for COVID-19. The patient died on March 2.
Back in mid-February, a cluster of respiratory illnesses broke out at the facility, which hosted about 130 residents who had about 170 health care personnel. Some residents underwent rapid influenza tests, which all came back negative.
PHSKC and the CDC began to investigate the respiratory illnesses at Life Care. They collected information, which included symptoms and their severity, travel history and underlying health conditions.
By March 9, the total number of coronavirus cases in King County was 111 (86 percent of coronavirus cases in Washington). Life Care residents made up 81 cases, staff members made up 17 cases and visitors made up 13 cases. In addition, as of this date, eight assisted living facilities (excluding Life Care) reported one or more cases of COVID-19.
The median age of residents who tested positive for COVID-19 was 81. For staff members, the median age was 42.5 and 62.5 for visitors. In addition, 65.1 percent of coronavirus patients were female. More than half (56.8 percent) of residents who tested positive for coronavirus were hospitalized.
In terms of chronic underlying health conditions of residents who tested positive for COVID-19 throughout King and Snohomish counties, 69.1 percent had hypertension, 56.8 percent had cardiac disease, 43.2 percent had renal disease, 37 percent had diabetes, 33.3 percent had obesity and 32.1 percent had pulmonary disease.
In part of a response effort to the COVID-19 outbreak, about 100 long-term care facilities throughout King County were contacted via email surveys. These surveys requested information regarding residents and staff known to have coronavirus, or clusters of respiratory illnesses in attempts to identify possible coronavirus cases. Facilities with evidence of clusters of respiratory illnesses were contacted by telephone for further information as well as infection control strategies and personal protective equipment (PPE) supply.
Long-term care facilities were prioritized by coronavirus risk, introduction and spread. Highest-priority facilities were visited by response personnel for emergency onsite testing, infection control assessments, support and training.
According to the CDC report, the information obtained from the email survey and onsite visits assisted in determining factors that contributed to the spread of COVID-19. These factors include: staff members working while symptomatic, staff members working at more than one facility, inadequate adherence to contact precautions, inadequate supplies and delayed recognition of cases due to limited testing and difficulty identifying cases based off of symptoms alone.
Local and state authorities plan to implement measures for long-term care facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These measures include active screening of health care personnel, symptom screening and restriction policies for visitors, symptom monitoring of residents, social distancing, staff training on infection control and PPE use, and plans to address local PPE shortages.
“The underlying health conditions and advanced age of many long-term care facility residents and the shared location of patients in one facility places these persons at risk for severe morbidity and death,” the report states.
The Reporter reached out to Eastside long-term care facilities Life Care Center of Kirkland and Madison House Independent & Assisted Living Community in Kirkland, and Aegis Living Marymoor in Redmond for comment but did not receive an immediate response.
Shiah Lints was a visitor of the Aegis Living Marymoor. His mother is a former resident before he pulled her out of the facility for the two of them to quarantine themselves in Eastern Washington after a staff member at Aegis tested positive for COVID-19 on March 6.
Lints described how he has medical power of attorney over his mother, meaning, he makes all of her medical decisions.
“I had asked my mom to be in full isolation,” after the virus struck stateside, he said.
On numerous occasions, the staff had not followed his wishes and he found his mother preparing to eat in the dining hall among other residents.
“I’ve talked to them repeatedly over the course of that week saying they need to take this seriously. They said they deal with the flu every year,” he said. “I would remind them that this wasn’t the flu.”
Lints said there were Purell hand sanitizer by the front door to the facility and handwashing stations, although he did not believe the facility was being proactive in terms of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“I feel like they put people’s lives at risk,” said Lints.
He voiced his concerns on several occasions.
“They won’t communicate with me. They communicate with my brother. And I’m acting as her full-time caregiver in Eastern Washington,” said Lints.
Lint’s brother receives email blasts from Aegis Marymoor, which he then forwards to Lint. According to Lint, 13 residents have tested positive for COVID-19 (one of which has died), and three staff members have tested positive.
Lints believes the staff should undergo routine COVID-19 testing every three days, and he acknowledges that the staff is underpaid and overworked.
In terms of offering advice for those who have a family member living at a long-term care facility:
“Pull them out of that assisted facility and isolate them and yourself in the home. If you can isolate and take care of your loved one, do that,” Lints said.