State issues new rules for nursing homes, assisted living facilities amid coronavirus outbreak

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Jay Inslee has announced new rules for nursing homes and assisted living facilities in response to the growing number of novel coronavirus cases in Washington state.

The governor said there are 162 presumptive cases in eight Washington counties as of Tuesday, March 10, with 22 deaths. Nineteen of those deaths are linked to the outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility.

Inslee said 80 percent of people who contract COVID-19, the illness caused by novel coronavirus, will show only mild symptoms. The risk of serious illness or death is higher for people 60 or older and those with compromised immune systems. And the virus has proven to spread more rapidly in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Rules that go into effect today:

    The new rules will remain in effect until April 9.

    The outbreak in Washington has prompted widespread school closures and business interruptions. Inslee said Washingtonians should expect these disruptions to continue and possibly worsen as the virus continues to spread.

    "We have a long road ahead of us. We're asking Washingtonians to step up to the plate and help our community. Some of this will require disruptions," he said.

    Epidemiologists have told Inslee that whatever the number of cases is on any given day, expect that number to double within five-eight days if drastic measures aren't put in place to stop the spread. Inslee contends that because testing of the virus has been so restricted, there are likely at least 1,000 cases in the state today, although only 162 are confirmed.

    "If you do the math it gets very disturbing," he said.