State issues new rules for nursing homes, assisted living facilities amid coronavirus outbreak

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OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new rules for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in response to the growing number of novel coronavirus cases in Washington state.

The governor said there are 162 presumptive cases in eight Washington counties as of Tuesday, March 10, with 22 deaths. Nineteen of those deaths are linked to the outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility.

Inslee said 80 percent of people who contract COVID-19, the illness caused by novel coronavirus, will show only mild symptoms. The risk of serious illness or death is higher for people 60 or older and those with compromised immune systems. And the virus has proven to spread more rapidly in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Rules that go into effect today:

  • Visitors must be adults and the visit must take place in the resident’s room. This does not apply to end-of-life situations.
  • All visitors must follow COVID-19 screening and follow reasonable precautionary measures. Precautionary measures include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations.
  • All visitors must sign into a visitor’s log. Owners and operators must retain that log for 30 days.
  • Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
  • People who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and who test positive for COVID-19 must be isolated away from other people.
  • Owners, operators, staff and volunteers are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information, except as otherwise provided by law or with the resident’s consent.

The new rules will remain in effect until April 9.

The outbreak in Washington has prompted widespread school closures and business interruptions. Inslee said Washingtonians should expect these disruptions to continue and possibly worsen as the virus continues to spread.

"We have a long road ahead of us. We're asking Washingtonians to step up to the plate and help our community. Some of this will require disruptions," he said.

Epidemiologists have told Inslee that whatever the number of cases is on any given day, expect that number to double within five-eight days if drastic measures aren't put in place to stop the spread. Inslee contends that because testing of the virus has been so restricted, there are likely at least 1,000 cases in the state today, although only 162 are confirmed.

"If you do the math it gets very disturbing," he said.

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