STANWOOD — Possibly weeks away from the arrival of a vaccine, the COVID outbreak at Josephine Caring Community could be the largest the state has seen at a long-term care home since the pandemic began.
As of Wednesday, at least 170 people linked to the facility have tested positive for the virus since late October, and 15 have died, Snohomish Health District spokesperson Heather Thomas said.
Local health experts are blaming the surge in COVID activity.
New cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus are all rising in Snohomish County.
With increased transmission, it’s easier for an employee or visitor to unknowingly bring the virus to a facility, health officer Dr. Chris Spitters has said.
Countywide, there are about 500 cases across 44 long-term care homes. In early November, that number was a single digit.
In response to the rise in cases, the health district is now recommending facilities revert to phase one of the long-term care “Safe Start” plan released by the state. It requires screening for all staff and visitors, limits visitations and ensures testing is readily available for residents.
The second-largest cluster of cases in the county is at Regency Care Monroe, where at least 99 people had tested positive since mid-October. Fifteen have died.
No other outbreak is larger than 50 cases, Spitters said earlier this week.
Meanwhile, long-term care staff and residents would be among the first groups to receive early doses of a COVID vaccine, which could land in the state within weeks.
Vaccinations require two doses, each separated by about three to four weeks.
At Josephine, the latest cluster of cases is the second outbreak the facility has encountered since the pandemic began.
In March, the campus went into lockdown after a handful of positive test results.
By mid-April, there were 33 cases linked to the facility, and at least six people had died.
With 170 infections, it’s unclear if any other long-term care home has experienced more cases in a single outbreak than Josephine. Local health departments handle most case investigations, and the state doesn’t always have up-to-date outbreak information, Department of Health spokesperson Kristen Maki said in an email.
In the spring, an outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland reached 156 cases among residents and staff, according to data from King County.
Nearly 50 people linked with the facility have died due to COVID since March.