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CDC: Sick staff fueled coronavirus outbreak in Seattle-area care centers

Data pix.

SEATTLE -- Staff members who worked while sick at multiple long-term care facilities contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable elderly in the Seattle area, federal health officials said Wednesday.

At least 30 coronavirus deaths have been linked to Life Care Center in Kirkland. A report Wednesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the most detailed account to date of what drove the outbreak.

Public health authorities who surveyed long-term care facilities in the area found facilities didn’t have enough personal protective equipment or other items such as alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

They also said nursing homes in the area are vulnerable because staff members worked with symptoms, worked in more than one facility, and sometimes didn’t know about or follow recommendations about protecting their eyes or being careful while in close contact with ill patients.

Nursing home officials also were slow to think that symptoms might be caused by coronavirus, and faced problems from limited testing ability, according to the report.

About 57% of the patients at the nursing home were hospitalized after getting infected. Of those, more than 1 in 4 died. No staff members died.

“The findings in this report suggest that once COVID-19 has been introduced into a long-term care facility, it has the potential to result in high attack rates among residents, staff members, and visitors,” the report says. “In the context of rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreaks in much of the United States, it is critical that long-term care facilities implement active measures to prevent introduction of COVID-19.”

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