As news of COVID-19’s devastating impact to staff and residents at long-term care facilities continues to emerge — including this week’s report from the World Health Organization showing long-term care facility residents accounted for nearly half of Europe’s COVID-19 deaths — a new partnership between Clark County Public Health and the Vancouver Clinic could help shed some light on the coronavirus’ impact inside local nursing homes and assisted-care facilities.
“We know, with this disease, elderly people and those with chronic health conditions are more likely to die, so we want to do whatever we can to protect this population,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s director of public health, stated in a press release announcing the partnership.
Since April 9, Vancouver Clinic teams have been testing staff and residents at long-term care facilities that already had a confirmed case of COVID-19.
Alfred Seekamp, Vancouver Clinic’s chief medical officer, said his team is trying to “make sure the residents and staff of the long-term care homes have access to testing without having to leave their homes.”
The county has not yet reported how many positive cases of COVID-19 have come from the Vancouver Clinic testing.
Clark County Public Health statistics show there have been 70 COVID-19 cases connected to long-term care facilities in Clark County since the coronavirus pandemic began. Those 70 confirmed cases include 39 cases inside assisted- or independent-living facilities, 18 cases at adult family homes and 13 cases at skilled nursing homes. The long-term care facility cases listed on the Public Health site are not included in the county’s overall case count and may be among non-Clark County residents.
To date, 4,268 individuals in Clark County have been tested for COVID-19, with 361 positive cases and 21 deaths. The vast majority of the county’s COVID-19 deaths — 67 percent — are attributed to people age 80 or older.
The county has not yet released specific locations related to the confirmed long-term facility coronavirus cases, but a Seattle Times report in early April showed seven long-term care facilities in Clark County, including six in Vancouver and one in Camas, had reported confirmed COVID-19 cases to the state.
On April 10, Prestige Care and Rehabilitation, an 83-bed, private short- and long-term care facility in Camas, confirmed that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19 in late March and was, at that point, under quarantine at their home.
The company’s public relations firm, Firmani and Associates, of Seattle, issued a statement on April 10, stating that all patients who had direct contact with the Prestige staff member who tested positive for the virus “were isolated, placed on droplet precautions and closely monitored” and that three patients with underlying health conditions were tested, but showed negative results for COVID-19.
On Friday, Clark County Public Health Information Officer Marissa Armstrong told the Post-Record the county wants to protect the privacy of residents and staff at facilities where there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases, but said the county has a team in place to investigate coronavirus cases at long-term care facilities and to inform anyone who came into close contact with a COVID-19-positive staff member or resident.
She added that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now requires long-term care facilities to report confirmed COVID-19 cases to residents and families. That rule, which went into effect April 20, mandates nursing homes “must inform residents and their representatives within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19” or within 72 hours if three or more residents or staff develop new respiratory symptoms.
USA Today reported Friday that state leaders are under increasing pressure to be more transparent in reporting COVID-19 cases and deaths connected to long-term care facilities, and states “the data paints a grim picture” with more than 16,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States — nearly a quarter of this country’s total coronavirus deaths — attributed to long-term care facility residents and staff.
To see updates on COVID-19 in Clark County, or for more information about the coronavirus, visit clark.wa.gov/public-health/novel-coronavirus.
This is an ongoing story, look for updates on the Post-Record’s website at camaspostrecord.com and in our print edition, which publishes each Thursday.