More than 60% of the US' coronavirus deaths are linked to a Washington nursing home. Here's what we know about the outbreak there.
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Charlie Campbell, a retired nurse from Silver City, New Mexico, accompanies his mom Dorothy Campbell, 88, to see her husband Gene Campbell, 89, through his room window on March 5, 2020 at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington.
- The Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, is the epicenter of a tragic coronavirus outbreak.
- Since February 19, 26 residents have died, 13 of whom were confirmed to have COVID-19. In total, 19 deaths in the state are tied to the center.
- Over 50 nursing-home residents have contracted the virus, and some staff and first responders are also exhibiting flu-like symptoms but haven't been tested yet.
- Because the coronavirus spreads via droplets when people are in close contact and is especially risky for those over 80, a nursing home can be a dangerous breeding ground for an outbreak.
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Before the coronavirus hit the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, 120 seniors lived there. Now there are less than 50.
The long-term care facility, which is about 20 minutes north of Seattle, has been battling the coronavirus for weeks. Since the outbreak started, 26 of the center's residents have died, 13 of whom were confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus causes. Some others who died have not yet been tested.
King County's public-health agency said in a statement Tuesday that 19 deaths in Washington were linked to the Life Care Center outbreak.
Given that the US' total death toll sits at 31, the fatalities tied to the center make up a stark 61% of the nation's total.
Over 51 coronavirus cases have been confirmed among Life Care residents. Those experiencing acute symptoms have been transferred to hospitals. Still in the facility are 49 residents, 21 of whom have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Healthcare workers and first responders were exposed
All residents currently at the home have been tested for the virus, Killian said, though the results of 12 tests are still pending, and four came back inconclusive. The center's staff continues to care for the residents who are still there, but 70 staff members have also presented symptoms of COVID-19.
Six have recovered and two are back at work, but 64 are still quarantined at home. Of these 64 employees, approximately half have not been tested for the coronavirus because of ongoing test shortages. Killian said he hasn't been given an answer as to why the facility doesn't have enough tests.
First responders that answered calls from the Life Care Center last month were exposed to the coronavirus, too. Twenty-seven firefighters and three police officers are under quarantine, and Kirkland Patch reported that 12 of them are experiencing flu-like symptoms.
Firefighters are now required to wear personal protective equipment when responding to any calls from the Life Care Center, a Kirkland spokesperson said.
'We've had patients die relatively quickly'
The first COVID-19 patient was transferred from Life Care Center to a local hospital with acute respiratory symptoms on February 19, though they hadn't been diagnosed yet. The first confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the nursing home were announced a week and a half later.
For some of that time, the center continued to accept visitors.
"We've had patients who, within an hour's time, show no symptoms to going to acute symptoms and being transferred to the hospital," Killian said at a news conference on Sunday. "And we've had patients die relatively quickly under those circumstances."
Because the coronavirus spreads via droplets when people are in close contact - within 6 feet - a nursing home can be a dangerous breeding ground for an outbreak.
The virus' death rate so far is highest among people older than 80, according to data from the Chinese CDC. People with pre-existing health conditions - a category in which most nursing-home residents fall - also face a higher risk. (The Life Care residents who have died thus far were residents in their 40s through 90s with underlying health problems.)
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Health officials haven't pinpointed precisely how the Life Care outbreak started - the CDC has not yet identified "patient zero" there, Killian told reporters, and the facility has been too busy treating the residents to prioritize tracing the virus' spread back to its original source.
Because people come in and out of the center to visit residents frequently, it's possible that someone who had an undetected case of coronavirus could have brought it in. The virus was spreading undetected in Washington for weeks before officials realized it.
COVID-19 cases have been confirmed at other nursing homes, too
Ten other long-term care facilities in the greater Seattle area have confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Seattle-King Public Health Agency.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday that nursing homes and assisted living facilities were to limit residents to one visitor per day.David Ryder/Getty Images
The entrance to Life Care Center of Kirkland on February 29, 2020.
"One thing that is clear is that nursing homes and hospitals are potentially at greater risk, and we are really going to have to think hard about what can be done to protect them," Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a media briefing last week. There are 1.3 million people in nursing homes around the US.
Statewide, the Washington Department of Health has confirmed at least 275 cases of COVID-19.
Nationally, 31 people have died from the coronavirus: 24 in Washington state, three in California, two in Florida, one in New Jersey, and one in South Dakota. The US has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases in total across 38 states and Washington, DC.
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