BELLINGHAM, Wash. — At least 26 patients have tested positive for coronavirus at Bellingham's Shuksan Healthcare Center, a nursing home that has been hit hard by global pandemic. Two residents have died, and six caregivers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The situation is so serious at Shuksan that medical staff from nearby PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center have volunteered to come in and help save lives.

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Despite already working long hours at PeaceHealth, eight nurses and assistants volunteered for duty in a hot zone where people are dying.

"Residents are positive with the virus and they're very, very ill," said  Bellingham Police Lt. Claudia Murphy, spokesperson for the county's COVID-19 response team Whatcom Unified Command. "These caregivers recognized that the patients need skilled care and they're willing to provide that. That is an unbelievable thing and they should be lauded for it."

The staff at PeaceHealth have even gone so far as to provide food for everyone at Shuksan — three meals a day, every day.

PeaceHealth St. Joseph Chief Nursing Officer Roseanna Bell couldn't be more proud.

"I'd really applaud the entire community for wrapping our arms around that one facility and really ensuring they have everything they need," she said.

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Once the volunteer nurses finish their duties at Shuksan they will be furloughed from the hospital for two weeks with pay to make sure they're not showing any signs of the disease. They will be not be allowed to work at any other medical facility while they're working at the nursing home.

The good work being done by nurses and staff at PeaceHealth is being recognized by the community.

A small garden of signs is growing outside the hospital expressing deep appreciation. 

"In my mind they are some of the true heroes, the staff and caregivers working at Shuksan," Bell said. "The families, what they're going through is incredibly challenging."

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