BREMERTON, Wash. - What started as just a few COVID-19 cases at Bremerton’s St. Michael Medical Center is now being called an outbreak.
The first person to test positive was an employee. Health officials in Kitsap County confirmed on Monday a total of 45 people had tested positive – 30 of the cases were among staff members and the remaining 15 were involving patients.
Hospital officials say they are abiding by CDC guidelines to keep more people from contracting the illness and have begun comprehensive testing for staff and patients and notifying their contacts including those who may have been already discharged.
The employee tested positive on August 4. The following week officials expanding testing and announced 45 positive tests on Monday.
The outbreak has forced the hospital to change how it allows visitors and are now severely limiting to only one visitor for family members for end of life events.
While initially an employee first tested positive officials say they might never know if that person is where COVID-19 began spreading.
“There is so much community exposure,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist from the Washington State Department of Health, adding restaurants, bars, and public gatherings are spreading the virus across Puget Sound. “There are so many other potential exposures.”
Doctors say the incident is an example that shows how tricky it is to recognize this virus.
State health officials are planning to vising St. Michael on Tuesday.
Anyone who might experience a low-grade fever, cough, and shortness of breath are being urged to contact the hospital’s expanded urgent care clinic.
Limiting non-essential travel and reducing visits with people who live outside your household remains the best weapon to avoid infection, say officials.
More information about the virus’ spread in Kitsap County can be found here.