Long-term care facilities report COVID-19 cases

Six residents at Avamere Rehabilitation of Newport have tested positive for COVID-19, and four staff members are currently self-quarantined after positive tests. (Photo by Kenneth Lipp)

LINCOLN COUNTY — Six residents of Avamere Rehabilitation of Newport were confirmed to have COVID-19, according to cases reported by the skilled nursing facility on its website, and residents of Lakeview Senior Living Community are awaiting testing after a staff member at the Lincoln City care home tested positive.

Two long-term care facilities in Lincoln County reported positive COVID-19 cases on Friday, June 26 — an asymptomatic staff member at Lakeview, who is self-quarantining, and a resident of Avamere, who was hospitalized offsite for reasons unrelated to coronavirus and had no symptoms at the time of their test, which they received because they were scheduled for an inpatient procedure. The Oregon Health Authority has scheduled testing for all Lakeview residents on Wednesday. Four staff members and another five residents of Avamere have since tested positive.

Cheryl Maccarone, infection prevention specialist at Avamere Newport, said in a joint statement with Lincoln County Public Health on Friday announcing the first positive resident, “We have been very proactive in protecting our staff and patients. We tested all residents earlier this month and all were negative. We have tested all staff and continue to test all staff each month.” After learning of the new case, Maccarone said, the facility immediately tested all staff and residents in the same hall as the positive patient, using a private lab in Portland.

Health department Deputy Director Nicole Fields said in the joint statement that the positive resident announced Friday did not have known contact with another confirmed case and was considered community spread. "The facility took all proper precautions including droplet control, personal protective equipment, monitoring of symptoms and surveillance testing of staff and residents each week, in addition to offering testing to any staff or patient who would like additional testing,” Fields said. She said the health department was confident in the facility's ability to contain the outbreak.

Two staff members at Avamere had already tested positive and have since recovered, according to its website. The Oregon Department of Human Services has the facility on its list of those with restricted admission due to a staff member with COVID-19, with a restriction date of June 16. The department conducted COVID-19 focused infection control surveys at Avamere on June 17 and 18, according to its site inspection database (https://tinyurl.com/yc7lxo2u), and found the facility in compliance. Non-essential visitors are currently forbidden at all long-term care facilities, per Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders.

According to Avamere’s website, it takes the following steps in response to an outbreak: COVID-19 positive patients are moved to a unit that is separate from the rest of the facility and is staffed by a dedicated team; positive staff members self-isolate per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines; the facility works with local health officials to closely monitor all staff and residents who may have been exposed; staff and residents continue to wear provided face masks while in the building or out of their room; and Avamere continues to screen all employees before the start of their shift.

Lakeview Executive Director Jennifer Whitmyer said in a media release Friday, “Community trust and the health of our residents is of utmost importance in our day-to-day operations. People have reached out to me, and I am personally appreciative of the concern, but as you know, the best thing to do is to respond as quickly as possible. So, we will continue to remain diligent in following all CDC guidelines and directives from the Oregon Health Authority and the Lincoln County Health Department.”

Dr. David Long, a hospitalist at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital  in Newport and public health officer for Lincoln County, has said the importation of COVID-19 into one of the county’s long-term care facilities is among his greatest fears. “Those people are very high risk, and that’s where we could potentially have some real problems,” Long said.

According to the most recently reported health authority data, 112 of the state’s 207 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings. As part of a statewide plan to test all staff and residents in these settings by Sept. 30, the local health department and the health authority recently offered testing to staff at all such facilities in the county.

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