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Staff at Grant County care facilities with 7 COVID-19 deaths attended 'superspreader' wedding

Grant County health officials reported that staff at long-term care facilities attended a COVID-19 "super-spreader" wedding near Ritzville in November.

GRANT COUNTY, Wash — More than 100 residents and staff members have been infected with coronavirus at one long-term care facility in Grant County among several that are experiencing outbreaks. 

This comes as the Grant County Health District is also reporting that staff at some long-term care facilities attended a "super-spreader" wedding near Ritzville in November.

GCHD reported more than one dozen COVID-19-related deaths in two days as of Thursday, Dec. 3.

Health officials reported 10 additional coronavirus deaths on Thursday in addition to eight deaths one day earlier for a total of 18. Seven of the eight deaths reported on Wednesday, Dec. 2 were associated with three long-term care facilities in Grant County, according to the health district, with four more deaths pending death certificate review.

"We're really about being transparent. We're not about fudging numbers. In fact, I can guarantee you there are way more people in this community with COVID 19 than the numbers I'm reporting to you today," said GCHD Administrator Theresa Adkinson.

On Friday, Nov. 20, the health district said there were outbreaks at McKay Healthcare and Rehab Center in Soap Lake, along with Lake Ridge Center and Columbia Crest in Moses Lake.

A spokesperson for Lake Ridge Center said in a statement to KREM that 66 residents and 44 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in a recent outbreak. 

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by COVID-19 during this difficult time, especially the families of the 13 residents who passed away," the spokesperson wrote.

The long-term care facility is screening residents and patients for symptoms three times per day; actively screening and taking temperatures of all staff members upon building entry; requiring personal protective equipment for staff; placing restrictions on visitations; canceling outside medical appointments apart from those that are necessary; and providing updates to patients, residents and families via regular video conference calls. 

There were very few cases in long-term care facilities at the beginning of the pandemic, Adkinson said. They were quickly mitigated, as health officials had been routinely testing staff and residents. Adkinson said the problem lies in staff bringing COVID-19 infections into the facilities. 

Staff at long-term care facilities attended 'super-spreader' wedding

GCHD confirmed on Thursday that employees at some local long-term care facilities attended a large wedding near Ritzville in November. At least 40 COVID-19 cases were connected to the event with more than 300 guests. 

The health district could not pinpoint for certain if the employees who attended the wedding spread COVID-19 to coworkers or residents at the long-term care facilities.  

"[The wedding] has likely resulted in deaths in our community," Adkinson said. 

Grant County is approaching at least 50 cases as a result of the wedding, according to Adkinson. The health district is reprioritizing contact investigations. 

RELATED: Coronavirus 'super-spreader' wedding near Ritzville linked to 2 outbreaks

48% of Grant County deaths associated with long-term care facilities

Twenty-two coronavirus deaths were reported in Grant County in November compared to four deaths in October, according to data provided by GCHD. Four deaths were reported in September, along with eight deaths in August.

Twenty-six out of 54, or 48%, of total deaths in Grant County have been affiliated with long-term care facilities. 

Long-term care facilities are associated with more than 50% of Washington state coronavirus deaths but only 6% of the state’s overall cases, according to a report recently released by the state Department of Health. 

RELATED: Over 50% of Washington's COVID deaths are linked to long-term care facilities

One of the coronavirus deaths reported at McKay Healthcare and Rehab Center was a woman in her 90s, according to the health district. Three deaths were also reported at Lake Ridge Center, including a woman in her 60s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s. 

Seven more deaths were reported at Columbia Crest. Four of those deaths were reported on January 7, 2021.

One other death was a resident of a long-term care facility in Ephrata, a woman in her 80s, according to the health district.

GCHD requested an Isolation and Quarantine strike team from the Washington Department of Health who has been onsite to assist McKay with additional precautions to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Both facilities are in communication with GCHD constantly and have received consultation from the Dept. of Health Isolation and Quarantine team.

All long-term care facilities in Grant County have been preparing for the possibility of COVID-19 cases within their facilities for months, according to Adkinson. 

12 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Moses Lake

Gretchen Youngren with Samaritan Healthcare in Moses Lake said the hospital has 50 beds. There are currently 12 COVID-19 patients hospitalized with none of them on ventilators.

Samaritan Healthcare is taking some COVID-19 patients from smaller hospitals, while also transferring others to larger facilities, Youngren said. Some employees have become sick with coronavirus, but most were due to exposure outside the hospital rather than patient care, she added.

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