Monday, June 1, 2020
June 1, 2020

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Six new COVID-19 cases confirmed, county total at 137

Public Health officer says cases identified in five long-term care facilities in county

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Clark County’s confirmed COVID-19 cases grew by six on Friday to 137 total cases. Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick confirmed that five long-term care facilities in the county have had a case since the virus was discovered in Clark County in early March.

Two of the first cases identified in Clark County were a married couple, Merle and Dee Tofte, who lived in different long-term care facilities. One lived in an adult family home, which are licensed for two to six beds in Washington. The other case lived at Van Mall retirement center, a larger Vancouver facility that has roughly 180 residents. Both Toftes died of the disease.

Melnick did not provide any more information about the locations of the five long-term care facilities, or whether Van Mall and the small adult family home were included in the count. He said he would likely be able to provide more information Monday.

Public Health doesn’t disclose the location or name of adult family homes with positive tests, because those homes are small and have greater patient privacy concerns.

Melnick said the proper protocol has been followed at all five facilities once a case has been identified. Each patient is quarantined, as are all close contacts.

Earlier this week, The Seattle Times reported that at least 90 senior care facilities in Washington have had confirmed coronavirus outbreaks. The Times analysis found at least 517 cases among employees and residents, 66 of whom have died.

Melnick said he has concerns about lack of testing in senior care facilities, because they house older, more vulnerable populations in close proximity, which can make it easier for the virus to spread.

A lack of testing supplies in Clark County has restricted who can get tested for COVID-19. In late March, all eight Clark County mayors sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee regarding the need for more supplies. The mayors expressed concern over testing in long-term care facilities.

“Our providers have restricted testing mostly to hospitalized patients, and it has been difficult, if not impossible, to test long-term care facility residents and other high-risk populations with COVID-19-like illness,” the letter reads.

There have still been struggles to secure more testing supplies, as Oregon Public Broadcasting reported earlier this week. Given supply shortages, Melnick said it might not be helpful to test entire long-term care facilities (residents and staff) every day for 14-day windows, while they aren’t showing symptoms.

Next Update Monday

According to Clark County Public Health, there are 22 people hospitalized for COVID-19 at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center and PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Ten are in an intensive care unit. Eight patients have already died. Public Health won’t announce new cases over the weekend, according to its official Twitter account, which means Monday is the next time the county’s case count will be publicly updated.

“That’s testing a large number of people,” Melnick said.

But as evidenced by a heavy influx of new cases in the last 10 days, Clark County’s testing capacity has grown. As the ability to test increases, Melnick said there have been discussions about testing asymptomatic residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

“The plan is to do more testing in long-term care facilities,” he said. “Where something can spread very quickly, those are the areas you want to test.”

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