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COVID-19 outbreak reported at Whatcom Nursing Facility

A coronavirus outbreak at a Whatcom County Qualified Nursing Facility resulted in 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six deaths related to respiratory disease, Whatcom County Health Department reported Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The health department said it has been working closely with Highland Health and Rehabilitation on Samish Way in Bellingham since the outbreak began on Sept. 18, according to a statement.

“We are working closely with Highland personnel to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the facility,” Cindy Hollinsworth, Whatcom County Chief of Communicable Disease and Epidemiology, said in the release. “They have been very responsive. But even when all is well, disease transmission is still possible, especially considering the current infection rate in the general population and the potential for individuals to be asymptomatic.”


Of the 39 cases at the facility, 23 were residents and 16 were staff associated with the facility, the release said.

All six people who died were over 70 – three were in the 1990s and two were over 100, according to the release. Two women and four men were among the six dead. Whatcom County Health Department Director Erika Lautenbach told the Whatcom County Council Tuesday that all six deaths have occurred in the past week.

“This has been truly tragic for the families and staff who are working to protect their residents,” Lautenbach told the Whatcom County Council, adding later, “We’re not sure how it happened, and it happened very quickly. “.

Highland Health and Rehabilitation worked with the Department of Health to test and monitor staff and residents at the facility, isolate those who test positive, and quarantine anyone exposed to the disease, the statement said. The County Health Department and the Washington State Department of Health have also implemented additional prevention protocols, such as grouping those who may have been exposed.

The health department reminded other Whatcom County residents to remain vigilant about social distancing and wear face covers to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect those most vulnerable to the disease.

“Until there is a vaccine,” Hollinsworth said in the statement, “wear the mask, wash your hands, keep your distance and limit meetings. These are the best things we can do.”

The Highland Outbreak is the second major outbreak in a Bellingham care facility during the pandemic. On March 22, the health department reported an outbreak at Shuksan Healthcare. That outbreak resulted in 54 coronavirus cases – 31 residents and 23 employees – 10 resident deaths.

The Good Samaritan Society-Stafholt nursing home in Blaine had 13 cases, including 11 residents as of late March, while Lynden Manor had 14 test positive residents and two deaths.

“In these facilities, it’s really hard to contain,” Lautenbach told the County Council.

Daily numbers

Two more Whatcom County residents have died after testing positive for COVID-19, the Washington State Department of Health reported on Tuesday, Sept. 29, and eight more people tested positive.

The two deaths reported on Tuesday were the first reported coronavirus-related deaths in the county since two deaths were reported on Sept. 22, bringing the county total to 44 during the pandemic. With the new deaths, 3.3 percent of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Whatcom County have died.

Due to the Highland Health and Rehabilitation outbreak, the number of deaths is likely to rise, as only four deaths have been reported by the state since September 18.

Whatcom County now had 1,353 confirmed cases during the pandemic, according to state Department of Health data as of 11:59 pm. Monday 28th September. The data also shows Whatcom County had 97 hospitalizations (no change since Monday) and 62,363 tests have been performed (an increase of 345 since Monday).

The health risk assessment dashboard was updated Tuesday, for data at 11:59 pm. Monday, Sept. 28, and showed Whatcom County is missing three of the four Phase 2 metric targets.

▪ Whatcom does not reach the target rate of less than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents every 14 days with a rate of 60.8.

▪ Whatcom recorded an average COVID-19 test rate per 100,000 people in one week of 189.7. No goals were set for this metric, however, the overall number across the state was 157.6.

▪ Whatcom does not reach the target of less than 2% of individuals tested positive for COVID-19 during the last week with a rate of 2.5%.

▪ Whatcom does not reach the target of less than 80% of all authorized hospital beds occupied by non-COVID-19 patients with 89.4% reported by the state.

▪ Whatcom aims to ensure that less than 10% of all authorized hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients with 0.0% reported by the state.

St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bellingham told the Bellingham Herald on Tuesday that it was treating zero patients for COVID-19.

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Numbers elsewhere

COVID-19 cases and deaths according to Johns Hopkins University Tuesday afternoon:

The United States has more than 7.18 million reported cases, most nations, and 205,774 deaths.

Worldwide, there are more than 33.4 million reported cases and 1.0 million deaths.

In Washington state, the most recent numbers from the Department of Health were reported on Tuesday afternoon:

87,042 cases reported, a 404 increase from Monday’s data.

7,483 coronavirus-related hospitalizations, a six-six increase from Monday’s data.

11,854,399 total tests, an increase of 5,936 from Monday’s data.

2,124 deaths related to COVID-19, an increase of 24 deaths from Monday’s data, indicating that 2.4% of people with confirmed cases have died.

Phased reopening

Governor Inslee, on July 28, indefinitely extended the hiatus on counties that continue the Safe Start Washington plan.

Five counties remain in a modified version of Phase 1, 17 counties – including Whatcom – are in phase 2, and 17 counties are in phase 3.

Follow our other reports on full coverage of the coronavirus in Washington

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David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers the latest news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.

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