The two cases here mark a troubling turn, as an outbreak in a Washington nursing home has been particularly deadly for assisted-living residents.
Two residents at a veterans nursing home in Lebanon in Linn County have now tested positive for coronavirus, the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday night, signifying a dramatic and troubling turn as the deadly pandemic runs rampant across America.
The outbreak at the Edward C. Allworth Oregon Veterans Home marks the first at a senior residential center in Oregon. Both infected patients are men who are at least 80 years old. Its unclear how they became infected and the cases have been labeled as community spread.
Both men had symptoms and sought medical treatment prior to being tested Wednesday. Two other residents were tested and were negative.
The home has 151 residents, according to state officials, and all of them, as well as care providers, will now be tested for the virus. Nearly all of the residents are older than 70 and about a third are 90 or older.
Oregons tally of infected patients grew to 21 after the two new presumed cases. Its a bleak development for Oregon because COVID-19 exposure has been deadly in assisted-living homes in Washington, where 24 of that states 29 fatalities have been residents in assisted living.
We understand the uncertainty this announcement may bring,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick, director of the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs. “But please rest assured the safety of our veterans and our staff is our highest priority.
The surprise announcement, made after 7 p.m., came nearly seven hours after state officials announced four new cases in Deschutes, Polk, Marion and Umatilla counties.
The nursing home samples were fast-tracked by the health authority Wednesday and taken to the state lab for testing after officials learned they had first been directed toward the University of Washingtons lab.
Officials could not explain why the samples were not originally slated to go to the state lab. We dont know why the decision was made, said Dr. Dawn Mautner, a senior health adviser for the state.
Dr. William Muth, Linn Countys public health officer, also said he did not know why. He speculated that doctors may have believed going to a commercial lab was more appropriate, given the states strict testing criteria.
Jonathan Modie, a state spokesman, said in an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive that part of the guidance is also physician discretion” about who can be tested, including age and underlying conditions.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer and epidemiologist, said the state did not previously deny access to the state lab for the two men, according to Robb Cowie, a different state spokesman.
The two men began showing symptoms late on Sunday, said Fitzpatrick, the veterans director. They were tested for the flu and other respiratory illnesses but were negative, she said.
Administrators at the nursing home switched the ventilation system to circulate 100 percent outside air in an effort to mitigate the potential spread of any infection disease. They also restricted visiting hours and limited who could enter the facility after March 2, Fitzpatrick said.
The two men returned to the center after seeking medical care and remain isolated in their individual rooms. They will be treated there only by staff who do not care for other residents, Fitzpatrick said.
In short, the facility did everything they needed to do to care for these residents,” said Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority.
The men are doing well, said Linn County Board of Commissioners Chair Roger Nyquist.
The Lebanon home, on the northern end of the city of about 17,000 and about 80 miles south of Portland, already been restricting visitors and screening visitors for respiratory symptoms and travel to high-risk areas, Nyquist said. The state has another veterans nursing home in The Dalles.
State officials have been bracing for an outbreak at a nursing home since at least last week.
About 45,000 Oregonians live in senior residential facilities like the one in Kirkland, Washington, that has been the epicenter of Washingtons outbreak.
Oregon officials aimed to address fears Tuesday, announcing a series of emergency policies they hope will better protect residents at long-term care centers, including the veterans home in Lebanon. Those protections include limiting and screening visitors, documenting who has visited and reducing community outings by residents.
Kirkland should be a wakeup call for all of us, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden told The Oregonian/OregonLive recently. I have long been fearful about whether there are adequate protections for the elderly in a health care emergency or heaven forbid, a pandemic.
(Jeff Manning, Jayati Ramakrishnan and Fedor Zarkhin of The Oregonian/OregonLive contributed to this report.)
— Brad Schmidt; firstname.lastname@example.org; 503-294-7628; @_brad_schmidt
Subscribe to Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts for the latest news and top stories.