45 residents test positive for COVID-19 at Olympia long-term care facility

VIDEO: Thurston County nursing home hit hard by COVID

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A surge of COVID-19 cases has been reported inside long-term care facilities in Washington.

Nearly three-quarters of the people living inside Garden Courte in Olympia tested positive for the coronavirus this month.

“I worry for the residents, I worry for the residents' families and I worry for staff,” said Robin Dale, Washington Health Care Association President and CEO.

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Garden Courte Memory Care Community cares for people with diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. The facility’s director of operations said a staff member, who was asymptomatic, brought the virus into the facility.

Since then, 45 residents and 25 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

“With so many vulnerable people in such a tight setting, the next thing you know you can have half the facility, half the staff have COVID-19,” said Chris Wright, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services media relations manager.

Sadly, seven Garden Courte residents who tested positive for coronavirus died. Five of them were on hospice.

“This virus is extremely dangerous to the population that are in assisted living or nursing homes,” said Dale.

Dale said as cases rise across the state, they’re creeping back into long-term care facilities even when strict state safety standards are being met.

In Thurston County, there are currently six outbreaks. Across Washington, there have been 80 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the last 10 days.

“It’s alarming. Unfortunately, it’s happened at a lot of places and it can show just how quickly this can spread,” said Wright.

Long-term care centers have been epicenters of the crisis since the beginning when Life Care Center of Kirkland became the first COVID-19 hot spot in the United States.

Since then, health officials have tied 1,275 COVID-19 deaths to long-term care facilities, which account for 8% of the state’s cases and 55% of the deaths.

Visitation to long-term care facilities varies depending on which phase of the state’s Safe Start plan the county is currently in.

In Thurston County, which is in Phase 3, the state allows compassionate care visits, window visits, remote visits, outdoor visits and limited indoor visits. Normal visitation isn’t allowed until Phase 4.

Garden Courte stopped all small group activities and suspended outdoor visits because of the outbreak.