Washington state: 3 nursing homes to open specific COVID-19 units

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Authorities said Monday three nursing homes in Western Washington will open coronavirus units to house people recovering from COVID-19 and help prevent its spread to other long-term care residents.

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services said 135 beds will be available at Avamere Transitional Care of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Richmond Beach Rehab in Shoreline and Avamere Bellingham Health Care and Rehab in Bellingham.

The country’s first deadly COVID-19 cluster happened at a Seattle-area nursing home where more than 40 died.

Ambulance staff prepare to transport a patient from the Life Care Center nursing home where some patients have died from COVID-19 in Kirkland, Washington on March 5, 2020. (Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

Bill Moss, the DSHS Aging and Long-Term Support Administration Assistant Secretary, said long-term care facilities in the stat have improved their infection prevention protocols and taken other steps to reduce COVID-19, including limiting vistors and quarantining people who test positive.

“The creation of COVID-19 units is the next step we need to take to ensure we are protecting Washingtonians who are most at risk for getting the virus,” Moss aid.

The COVID-19 wings will be cordoned off, have their own entrances and dedicated staff. Once a resident has recovered and has two negative COVID-19 tests over a period of at least two weeks, they will return to their original long-term care facility or other residential setting of their choice.

More than 15,180 people in the state have tested positive and at least 834 people have died from the coronavirus. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.