Larsen in Stanwood, 8.10.20

Josephine Caring Community

The COVID-19 outbreak at Josephine Caring Community has grown to 141 cases and caused nine deaths, the Snohomish Health District announced Friday afternoon. The outbreak has sent seven others people to the hospital.

The outbreak isn't the only at a long-term care facility in Snohomish County. There are 23 total facilities — 12 skilled nursing, eight assisted living and four adult family homes — with a combined 349 cases since late-October, according to the Health District. Regency Monroe has 91 cases with seven currently or having been hospitalized and 12 deaths. 

"This serves as a crucial reminder that these settings are highly vulnerable to sustained transmission," Health District officials said in a statement Friday. "Healthcare workers should model best practices for COVID prevention not only in the workplace, but outside of it. Friends and family members need to find ways to support loved ones in these facilities without accidentally bringing COVID in. Alternatives to in-person visitations must be the norm for the time being, until community transmission significantly decreases."

High hospitalization numbers, increasing outbreaks in long-term care facilities and a nursing shortage are further compounding an already strained healthcare system, officials said.

In Snohomish County on Friday, there are 53 confirmed and eight suspected COVID-19 cases hospitalized — eight of those requiring mechanical ventilation. Hospitalizations have increased about 150% from two weeks ago.

The recent surge also pushed Snohomish County to a grim milestone this week as it surpassed 250 deaths due to COVID-19. As of Friday, 263 residents have lost their lives because of this virus — nearly 25 times the number of influenza-related deaths and more than twice as many opioid overdose deaths in 2019, according to the Health District. 

"The cause is the widespread COVID activity in the surrounding community making its way in through staff and visitors," Dr. Chris Spitters, Snohomish County’s top health officer, said in a media briefing Tuesday morning. "These settings are highly vulnerable for transmission."

He said the cases are roughly split 50/50 between residents and staff.

The Stanwood long-term care facility reported its first case Oct. 26 and instituted a strict lockdown, but the virus rapidly spread, according to the Health District.

“This is why we have taken such drastic measures in Snohomish County and statewide to protect these vulnerable populations," Spitters said last week. "I implore everyone to double-down their efforts so we can prevent more scenarios like this from happening.”

The number of cases at Josephine increased dramatically last week, nearly tripling in 48 to 72 hours, according to the Health District.

Josephine, which was among the first facilities in the state to battle the virus, had 34 cases and six deaths in the spring. A lockdown worked, and Josephine was COVID-free from May until Oct. 26. The facility — which houses about 130 residents in its nursing home, 60 in its assisted living units and 300 staff — is currently implementing crisis capacity strategies to mitigate their critical staffing shortage and meet patient care needs.

"There are additional positive cases of COVID-19 within the building," according to a message on the Josephine Caring Community website. "We are continuing to take every precaution to limit the transmission of the COVID virus."

The 141 COVID-19 cases in this outbreak make it the worst yet in Snohomish County. Previously, Sunrise View in Everett had an outbreak of 79 confirmed cases, according to the Health District.

Contact reporter Evan Caldwell at ecaldwell@scnews.com and follow him on Twitter @Evan_SCN for updates throughout the week and on Instagram @evancaldwell.scn for more photos.

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