Coronavirus Poses Threat To Oregon Residential Care Facilities


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Nearly three-dozen Oregon long-term care facilities and nursing homes have suspected coronavirus cases among patients or staff, health officials acknowledged this week, as the state moves to clamp down on visitors there to prevent the spread of the virus.

The state has tested people in 34 residential care centers who have shown symptoms, Oregon Department of Human Services spokeswoman Elisa Williams said.

The announcement came as the number of novel coronavirus cases in Oregon edged close to 90 on Thursday. Three Oregon residents have died from the virus – a 70-year-old Multnomah County man, a 60-year-old Lane County woman and a 71-year-old Washington County man.

It’s unclear how many of those tested in the 34 care centers actually have the virus. Many of the test results were still pending.

Nursing homes, veterans homes and long-term care facilities have become a front line in the battle to contain the coronavirus, with elderly residents and patients with underlying conditions accounting for a vast majority of virus-related deaths nationwide. The Life Care Center nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, the country’s first cluster of coronavirus cases, accounts for 35 of the 150 deaths nationwide.

The 34 Oregon senior care centers with suspected cases rose to 16 on Sunday, DHS officials said. The figures were first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Officials declined to respond to questions from The Lund Report about which facilities have suspected cases, the number of suspected cases and its future testing plans.

Fifteen of the state’s 88 confirmed cases are at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon – 13 veterans, one spouse and one employee. The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday evening that it completed coronavirus testing on all 151 patients, with no new positive cases. The first cases there were reported March 11.

“ODVA has been working closely with an Infection Control and Specimen Collection Strike Team from (the Oregon Health Authority) to coordinate and prioritize testing for residents and staff,” the agency said in a statement. The Lebanon facility has activated the VA’s highest level of safety precaution, forbidding all visitors, suspending patient admissions and restricting all group and outside activities for residents.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday announced statewide restrictions on visitors to senior care facilities in an effort to prevent transmission of the virus. Virtually all visitors are barred from entering residential care facilities and nursing homes, except for visiting family members near death. Those who do visit must be screened for symptoms of the virus and report if they have traveled to areas with high infection rates, or come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Visitors at risk have to wear protective gear and stay in the room of the patient they’re visiting.

There are roughly 2,000 care facilities spread across Oregon, housing approximately 45,000 elderly residents.

Brown on Wednesday also ordered all Oregon hospitals, clinics and even dentists and veterinarians to halt all non-emergency procedures, so equipment like surgical masks and gloves can be dedicated to treating coronavirus cases. She said Thursday morning that the state was down to just a several-day supply of protective equipment.

You can reach Elon Glucklich at [email protected].

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