Spokane Veterans Home COVID outbreak results in six hospital stays, one death

A COVID-19 outbreak at the Spokane Veterans Home has resulted in six hospitalizations and one death after four employees and six residents tested positive since July 21.

The home won’t publish the vaccination status of every person who tested positive in the last outbreak, but figures show the majority of residents are vaccinated while the majority of staff are not.

Only 43% of the Spokane Veterans Home employees, or 47 of the 110 employees, are vaccinated. Of the total of 81 residents, only nine are unvaccinated, i.e. 89% of the residents are fully vaccinated.

The Spokane Veterans Home does not require its employees to be vaccinated and it is not clear how the virus got into the facility, spokeswoman Heidi Audette said.

COVID-19 case rates and hospital admissions are increasing in the north-west of the country, and the more transmissible Delta variant is also circulating here. The latest data from the state shows that the delta variant accounts for 85% of all sequenced cases in the state by mid-July, and 49 cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in Spokane County.

The majority of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, but as case numbers rise and hospital capacity continues to tighten, health officials recommend that everyone wear masks regardless of vaccination status in crowded environments and indoor public spaces. For those who don’t need to get vaccinated yet, health officials recommend doing so, as the Delta variant is highly transmissible and can mean a more serious illness, especially for those who have not yet received the vaccine.

In Spokane County, 55.4% of people 12 years and over have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

While breakthrough cases where fully vaccinated people tested positive for the virus are very rare, and hospitalizations and deaths in fully vaccinated individuals are even rarer, 27 of the 52 deaths so far confirmed from breakthrough cases are associated with long-term care outbreaks , according to country data.

People with underlying health conditions or those with compromised immune systems are still at a higher risk of developing more severe illnesses should they contract COVID-19.

Some hospitals and medical associations in the state have recommended that hospitals require their staff to be vaccinated.

The Spokane Veterans Home is operated by the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, and while it is not bound by the federal Veterans Administration’s vaccine requirements, the governor could impose a vaccine mandate at these facilities.

Governor Jay Inslee’s office is currently looking into vaccinating civil servants, spokeswoman Tara Lee wrote in an email, adding that there is a lot of work going into involving state human resources and other agencies.

“We share a concern that those who care for vulnerable people should protect themselves and others,” Lee wrote.

Inslee said last week the need for vaccines for civil servants is “a clear possibility that we would require vaccination of our employees to some extent, depending on their job title and environment.”

The governor will likely hold a press conference early next week to say more about it, Lee said.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District reported 272 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, but only 225 of these have been confirmed and no other deaths.

85 patients with the virus have been hospitalized in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 128 new cases and no more deaths on Wednesday.

There are 46 panhandle residents who have been hospitalized with the virus.

SR reporter Laurel Demkovich contributed to this report.

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