Coronavirus Outbreak Hits Life Care Centers Community in Washington State

A skilled nursing facility resident who was diagnosed with the coronavirus known as COVID-19 has died, while there are indications that dozens of other residents and staff members of the SNF are showing symptoms of the illness, the Associated Press reported Sunday night. These are the first known case of the disease in a U.S. senior care setting, and a potentially grim sign that more cases are on the way for the industry.

Early reports out of Washington state indicated that a resident in her 70s and a staff member in her 40s at the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Kirkland, Washington, had tested positive for COVID-19, according to health care publication STAT and a variety of other news sources. The skilled nursing facility (SNF) offers skilled nursing care, inpatient and outpatient rehab and short- and long-term care.

The infected resident and associate were taken to a local hospital, where they are currently being treated, according to a March 1 statement from Life Care Centers of America, which operates the Kirkland building and is one of the largest SNF providers in the country. The Cleveland, Tennessee-based company has a portfolio of more than 200 SNF, rehabilitation, memory care and senior living communities across 28 states.

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More than 50 other residents are showing symptoms of a respiratory illness not confirmed as COVID-19, according to CNN. Those people also will be tested for the coronavirus.

On Sunday night, Washington State health officials said that a man in his 70s who resided in the facility and had other health conditions had contracted the virus and died.

Older adults are thought to be at greater risk for serious complications from the virus because of their age. A wider coronavirus outbreak could have “devastating” effects on the senior living industry’s residents and frontline caregivers. Smaller providers could potentially be more at risk for widespread disruptions to their operations, according to Dr. Kevin O’Neil, chief medical officer at Affinity Living Group.

“I’m very concerned because of the population that we’re serving and because of the impact it could have on the workforce,” O’Neil told Senior Housing News last Thursday.

The SNF is currently following infection control recommendations from the CDC, which include proper hand-washing techniques and mask-wearing, and gowns and gloves for associates who care for symptomatic residents. The SNF is also placing residents who show symptoms into isolation, and sending home employees who exhibit them, as well.

“In addition to the above infection control strategies, all visits to the facility from families, volunteers or vendors are not allowed,” Life Care Center said in a statement. “The facility has placed a hold on admissions as well to fully focus on our current residents and associates.”

Another Washington state man is reported to have died from the coronavirus. The man, who was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions, did not live or work in the Kirkland SNF.

California, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island and New York also had reported cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday night, according to the AP.

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