One out of five nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Washington have had cases of the disease caused by novel coronavirus, and more than 200 deaths have been linked to them, according to state officials.
The list of 163 affected facilities, released Thursday by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), is an update to the state’s first attempt the day before to provide a comprehensive picture of the virus’ spread among long-term care facilities. The state Department of Health said Wednesday at least 52 facilities had reported a total of 221 deaths from the disease — about half the deaths the state had confirmed by that day.
Four facilities, however, said they were wrongly included on the first list provided by DSHS, which the department confirmed. The Seattle Times published that list online Wednesday, but has since taken it down until DSHS further clarifies how it was compiled. Some other facilities also claimed to have been wrongly included. The Seattle Times was not able to verify all their accounts, but found some did have employees test positive.
DSHS said it compiled the list by pulling together facilities with at least one positive case among staff or residents, as reported by DSHS employees or the facilities themselves. The agency does not call each facility to confirm the reports, as they are required under state law to inform DSHS, said department spokesman Chris Wright.
The department did not provide detail about how the four facilities were inaccurately placed on the list. When asked if there were other facilities inaccurately placed on the list, Wright said it was possible.
“This is an unprecedented situation and it continues to evolve rapidly. The number of facilities with COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in the past week alone,” Wright said. “DSHS is working diligently to track the numbers and we apologize to any long-term care facilities listed that were initially reported as having positive cases and that was later found to not be the case.”
The number of facilities with COVID-19 cases in the state has climbed since the first known outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland, where an outbreak spread to at least 167 people, 37 of whom died.
While the data from DSHS appears to have had some errors, The Seattle Times identified at least 90 with confirmed cases last week based on data from the King and Snohomish county health departments and independent reporting. The state was reporting around 60 at the time.
The number of facilities with COVID-19 cases might be higher, as across-the-board testing has been out of reach for most and public-health officials have struggled to track the spread.
DSHS said three other facilities in the state that have cases are owned by Life Care Centers of America, which operates the Kirkland facility: Life Care Center of Skagit Valley in Sedro-Woolley, Life Care Center of Richland and Life Care Center of Mount Vernon. Life Care is a national chain that operates or manages more than 200 facilities in 20 states.