As the novel coronavirus strikes a record number of nursing homes and assisted living centers in Washington, a large facility in Seattle is experiencing a growing outbreak.
As of Friday, 13 residents and 11 staff members at Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle had tested positive for the virus. Administrators say two of the residents who tested positive have died.
The outbreak began Nov. 8, when a single resident was confirmed to be infected, public relations manager Colleen Farrell said Saturday in an email.
Across the state, 339 long-term care facilities have at least one active case of the virus — a record number experts say is likely to increase as new infections in the general population soar.
“I’m very worried about our long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. Even the strictest control measures, including bans on indoor visits and screening of all personnel, are clearly not enough to keep the virus out, he said.
“It’s like water. It’s going to flow everywhere it sees an opening.”
Larger outbreaks have recently taken hold. Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood reported 141 cases, including nine deaths, in a Friday update from the Snohomish Health District. At another Snohomish County facility, Regency Care Center at Monroe, 12 people have died and 79 other residents and staff have tested positive since mid-October.
Most nursing home outbreaks are introduced by staff members who become infected in the community, Duchin said. With infection rates reaching new highs, that means the risk will continue to grow.
“That’s why you need everybody to pull back, because these highly vulnerable groups are the ones who are going to pay the price.”
Long-term care facilities have accounted for fewer than 10% of infections in Washington, but more than half of deaths.
Providence Mount St. Vincent — or the Mount, for short — is a distinctive landmark in West Seattle. The multistory complex perches on a hill near the city’s highest point. Some rooms command sweeping views of downtown and the Olympic Mountains.
According to its website, the facility is a “living care community” for older adults. It includes short-term rehabilitation, a nursing home wing and assisted living apartments for people able to live more independently. The Mount is home to more than 400 residents.
Uniform restrictions are applied throughout the complex, said a person whose mother lives in the assisted living wing. The relative, who asked not to be named, hasn’t seen their mother for almost a month. Residents don’t leave their apartments without escorts and don’t leave the complex except for medical appointments, the relative said. Everyone eats in their own room.
The relative is worried not only about their mom’s physical well-being, but her mental health as well. “I’m concerned about the social isolation, especially going into the holidays.”
Since outbreak reporting is so inconsistent across the state, it’s also hard to know how widespread the problems are and how to put outbreaks like that at the Mount into perspective, the relative said.
Farrell said no one was available to discuss the outbreak Saturday. “Our clinical team is 100% focused on their work,” she wrote.
Duchin, who has been delivering the same words of warning over and over for the past two months, stressed that the best way to protect nursing home residents is to control the virus’s spread in the community by limiting contact with people outside your household and wearing masks.
“That could be your family member,” he said. “That could be your friend. And it’s not necessarily just older adults, but also people with risk factors that put them in serious jeopardy for bad outcomes.
The virus will not stay in one place,” he said. “That’s why we all have to take it seriously.”