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Vancouver PeaceHealth hospital COVID-19 outbreak includes 19 patients, 11 health workers; cause unknown

Nineteen patients and 11 health workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — PeaceHealth’s chief medical officer said the cause of a COVID-19 outbreak at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver remains unknown, but it likely started with a patient who was infected in the community and manifested the virus after being admitted to the hospital.

Dr. Lawrence Neville, updating a previous news release from PeaceHealth, said during a Monday news conference that the COVID-19 cluster includes 19 admitted patients and 11 health care workers. The infected patients tested negative for COVID-19 when they entered the hospital. 

PeaceHealth on Friday announced that 30 hospital patients who were not admitted for COVID-19 tested positive for the virus in the past week. Neville called that original number inaccurate.

Neville said the virus spread in a general medical surgical unit, which has since been closed.

The first case was identified on Dec. 27, 2020. Two more asymptomatic cases were found the next day in the same unit, Neville said.

"What's unknown is how it spread from that first patient to the other 18 patients," said Neville. There were no breaches in the hospital's protocol regarding personal protective equipment (PPE).

No new cases have been found in the hospital since Jan. 2.

"The face that this cluster could happen at PeaceHealth Southwest really shows that this virus has high prevalence in our community," said Neville.

Neville said the infected patients are all doing relatively well. None required treatment in the intensive care unit.

Samples from the infected patients were sent to a lab for testing, Neville said, to determine whether the virus was the new COVID-19 variant that has been found in the United States.

Clark County Public Health is working with PeaceHealth to notify people who may have been exposed and make sure cases are isolated.

PeaceHealth is not alone in dealing with an outbreak. Providence Portland Medical Center also experienced an outbreak around Christmas.  Ironically, the outbreak there was also on a medical/surgical unit.  Thirteen patients who were not being treated for COVID-19 tested positive for the virus, along with 36 caregivers on the unit.  Providence said all of the patients were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.  The caregivers were taken off the work schedule and are recovering at home.

WATCH: COVID-19 updates and stories | YouTube playlist

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