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Aerosol generating procedures may have contributed to spread of COVID-19 at Bremerton hospital

A total of 65 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton.

BREMERTON, Wash. — Patient procedures that put healthcare workers at higher risk of infection may be a source of COVID-19 transmission at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, according to a recent report.

State health officials said aerosol generating procedures performed on asymptomatic positive patients may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19. These procedures are more likely to generate higher concentrations of infectious aerosols than coughing or sneezing.

Health officials found some staff present for the procedures were not wearing N95 masks, only surgical masks and eye protection.

"Shorter than recommended room turnover may have exposed patients and staff," the report says. "The rooms were left empty for [less than] two hours and [aerosol generating procedures] were performed in rooms without negative air pressure, which conflicts with SMMC policy."

As of 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 1, there were 65 confirmed cases at St. Michael Medical Center, 44 staff and 21 patients, and less than a month since the outbreak was declared.

On Aug. 4, Kitsap Public Health determined an employee was infected with the virus. An investigation and contact tracing found "no close contacts from that case were identified at the hospital."

On Aug. 13, Kitsap Public Health connected five cases to a unit at the hospital and recommended testing for staff and patients within the unit. Kitsap Public Health declared an outbreak at the hospital on Aug. 14.

A multi-agency response is underway to identify the full extent of the outbreak at the hospital and control its spread. 

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