Two patients on the same medical unit at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland likely became infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 after receiving care in the hospital, according to hospital leaders. 

“We do not know what the actual transmission source is, despite analysis,” said Dr. Ettore Palazzo, Chief Medical & Quality Officer of EvergreenHealth, who added that the virus could have been transmitted to the patients by a health-care worker, family member or visitor. 

Palazzo said the two patients tested positive on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13. Both patients were admitted in late August, Palazzo said. One tested negative upon admission. The other did not have symptoms at the time and was not tested, but enough time had passed that it was unlikely the patient had become infected with the virus before receiving care at Evergreen.    

The two patients represent the first recorded hospital-acquired infections at EvergreenHealth. Palazzo did not share any demographic details about the infected patients, citing their privacy.  

State Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials visited EvergreenHealth’s Kirkland campus Wednesday and the cases were discussed, Palazzo said.  

The hospital has notified staffers of the infections. The hospital is contacting some 100 employees who might have been exposed to the two hospital-acquired COVID-19 cases. Staffers who might have been exposed are being tested for COVID-19. 

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So far, “none of the employees with possible exposures have tested positive,” Palazzo said. 

The coronavirus can be transmitted by people without symptoms or in the days before symptoms develop, making it difficult to prevent all transmission through screening alone.

Palazzo said it was important for hospital employees and the public to continue to take steps to reduce transmission of the virus. 

“Always be vigilant,” Palazzo said. “Active screening, the social-distancing aspect of how to carry out your day, universal masking — none of that is new. All of that has been shown to be effective minimizing transmission.”

Since the pandemic began and as of early September, there have been at least 18 outbreaks in King County hospitals, according to Public Health – Seattle & King County. Most consisted of between two and four cases.

Public health officials and hospital leaders struggled to control an outbreak in Kitsap County. 

At least 73 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after an outbreak that began in August at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, according to the Kitsap Public Health District.