Tri-Cities businesses and nursing homes see COVID outbreaks

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Hospitals in the Tri-Cities area on Monday set a new record for the number of patients they were treating for COVID-19 and outbreaks are increasing in nursing homes and elsewhere.

Hospitals in the region reported 127 COVID patients, up from 118 on Friday.

They made up 32% of all patients at Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and Prosser hospitals, all of whom said they were already stressed from treating large numbers of COVID patients.

Over the past three days, the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Tri-Cities has risen to an average of 223 per day, compared to an average of 204 cases per day just after the holiday weekend. Job.

As the number of new cases of COVID has increased, more outbreaks are being reported in the Tri-Cities region, including an increase in outbreaks in businesses and long-term care facilities.

The Benton Franklin Health District had not linked any COVID cases to the Benton Franklin County Fair the last week of August, late last week.

But 15 cases among residents of Benton and Franklin counties and three more cases among residents of other counties were under investigation as related to the fair.

County health officials rely on people reporting where they have been to track outbreaks, and people may not always report any potentially risky behavior, according to public health officials.

Additionally, the Benton Franklin Health District said it was investigating 19 commercial outbreaks just after the start of September, with another 16 potential outbreaks under investigation.

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A screenshot from the Benton Franklin Health District website shows new cases of COVID-19 in Benton and Franklin counties have reached a high level. Courtesy of Benton Franklin Health District

This is an increase from four commercial outbreaks about two months ago, with four potential outbreaks under investigation.

The health district reported that by the end of July, commercial outbreaks were most common in agriculture and produced packaging jobs, including employer-provided housing, with 46 outbreaks reported since the start of the pandemic.

This was followed by 39 outbreaks in the restaurant and other food service industries, 34 in government agencies and 30 in retail.

Outbreaks in nursing homes

Of particular concern to public health officials is a spike in cases among staff and residents of long-term care facilities for the elderly, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care centers. and some retirement homes.

“We’ve seen a big jump,” which matches the increase in new cases in Benton and Franklin counties, said Erin Hockaday, COVID-19 program manager for the Benton Franklin Health District.

In the past 30 days, 58 cases have been reported among staff and residents of long-term care facilities, according to data from the Tri-Cities-based health district. In the previous two months, only 17 cases had been reported.

The health district reports 10 active outbreaks in long-term care homes and nine more are under investigation.

Of the cases in the past 30 days, about half were in residents, most of them vaccinated, and the other half in staff, Hockaday said.

People with weakened immune systems and possibly those who are older or have underlying health conditions – which includes most residents of long-term care facilities – may not have such a strong immune response. to the vaccine than the others.

“It is important that healthy and eligible people are vaccinated,” Hockaday said.

This reduces the risk of the coronavirus being introduced into long-term care facilities to infect the most vulnerable residents of the community.

In a long-term care facility, a single resident with COVID-19 is considered an epidemic, as most do not leave the facility. At least one staff member suspected of having been infected by another staff member is also classified as an outbreak.

Most recent outbreaks have occurred with only one or two people in one facility, but there has been one incident of 23 people in one facility, she said.

However, at the start of the pandemic, when there was no vaccine available, there were triple-digit epidemics, she said.

In Washington state, all workers in long-term care facilities will need to be fully immunized starting October 18.

During epidemics, long-term care facilities are required to restrict new admissions and it is recommended that visitors be restricted, except for residents at the end of their life. Facilities must also test all staff and visitors for 14 days.

Case of Tri-Cities

The Benton Franklin Health District reported 668 new confirmed cases on Monday in the past three days.

This averaged 223 cases per day.

Benton County has recorded 434 new cases, bringing its total to 25,000 cases since the start of the pandemic. Franklin County had 234 new cases for a total of 16,602.

The rate of new cases for both counties has generally leveled off in recent weeks, with new cases in Benton County generally down, but Franklin County cases have continued to rise since the start of the summer.

Benton County recorded 930 new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks, as reported Monday. It is still above its winter peak.

Franklin County recorded 1,167 new cases per 100,000 over two weeks. It is still below, but approaching, its winter peak in the event.

Public health officials attribute high rates of new cases to the insufficient number of eligible people vaccinated in Benton and Franklin counties and the dominance of the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

The Benton Franklin Health District has also recommended canceling major public events.

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Senior Editor Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for over 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.


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