KIRKLAND, Wash. — The 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak at the Life Care Center of Kirkland has now claimed the lives of more than a dozen residents.
There were 120 residents at the facility on February 19. Since that time, 26 residents have died, though it's unknown if all deaths were related to the coronavirus. There are 13 deaths confirmed from COVID-19.
Overlake Medical Center in Bellevue announced Monday that a man in his 80s died at the hospital. He had been a resident at Life Care Center.
Sixty-two residents have been transferred to hospitals since Feb 29, when the outbreak was officially declared.
Tim Killian, a Life Care Center spokesman, said Monday that 35 more residents were tested for coronavirus. Of the 35 tests, 31 tests came back positive. Three tests were inconclusive and one came back negative.
Every resident at Life Care Center has been tested. No employees have been tested at the facility. That may happen off-site this week.
Of the 26 residents that have died since February, 15 died in hospitals. An additional 11 residents died at the facility and it's unknown if they died from COVID-19 or other causes. No information was available on their post-mortem tests.
Killian said with Life Care being an acute care facility, it's not unusual to have residents die in the facility, and in a typical month, they may see anywhere from three to seven deaths.
There are currently 53 remaining residents at the facility who are being kept in isolation in their rooms, Killian said. If any of those residents show acute symptoms of the virus, they will be transferred to a hospital.
"We've lost a lot of staff," said Killian, who explained several employees of Life Care are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and so are no longer working at the facility.
"The amount of stress that they are under is tremendous," said Killian.
A task force of at least 30 medical professionals from the United States Public Health Service arrived at Life Care Saturday to help contain the outbreak.
On Friday, King County Executive Dow Constantine said the task force would help support the already "strained" staff at the facility.
Several residents of the facility were transferred to area hospitals earlier in the week for coronavirus treatment.
“The health and safety of all of our residents, but particularly those residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland are our highest priorities,” said Constantine.
Constantine stressed that everyone at Life Care will eventually be tested for coronavirus.
"All residents and staff of Life Care are either being tested... or they will be tested shortly thanks to the state of Washington's increased testing capacity that's coming online," Constantine explained.
Currently, the Washington State Public Health Laboratory in Shoreline and UW Medicine are the only locations in the state that can test samples for COVID-19.
Constantine said for the residents remaining at Life Care if their conditions worsen they will also be moved to a hospital.
“This is for many of the residents the best place that they can be, those who are asymptomatic but have these health conditions that have to be attended to in a 24-hour care facility," explained Constantine. "Some observers have wondered why the facility hasn’t simply been shut down and evacuated... there’s also no capacity at hospitals or nursing homes to take them.”
Constantine addressed concerns raised by family members of Life Care residents on Thursday who demanded more resources to help the staff and remaining residents at the facility.
"For the families who say they are not being adequately communicated with, we hear you," said Constantine. "We want to change that... we are 100% committed to the health and welfare of your loved ones."
Constantine also said if family members want to pull their loved ones out of Life Care and bring them home, the state will help provide them support. Many family members expressed that desire on Thursday but said they cannot because they don't have the equipment or capacity to care for their loved ones at home.
"We are working with the state to set up a system with an expert to help them that will provide the support they need to be able to do that," said Constantine.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Washington State Department of Health, King County Public Health, King County Emergency Management, city of Kirkland officials, and the Life Care Center staff are all working to give the remaining residents at the facility the care they need.