State increases testing efforts at long term care facilities

The state is putting together an effort to test thousands of staffers and residents at long term care facilites over the next two weeks, and the first shipment of supplies went out Monday.

The Department of Health put out an order on May 29 which requires the widespread testing of both residents and staff in nursing homes. Federal guidelines recommend universal testing for all residents and staff in a nursing home before progressing to any of the next phases of reopening.

State officials hope to have all of the tests complete by June 12. Additionally, all residents and staff in assisted living facilities with a memory care unit are required to be tested in four weeks, which would conclude on June 26.

“Information about testing in other long term care facilities will be forthcoming,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “These congregate settings are a priority for us and we are working with local health jurisdictions, facilities and health system partners to understand the challenges associated with expanded testing and mobilizing the resources to support scaled operations among these facilities.”

During this week’s Kitsap Board of Health meeting, Environmental Health Director, said the county was ready to comply with the state’s request.

“We’re in a good place to implement this order in Kitsap County,” said Kiess

“We’ve connected with all of our skilled nursing andmemory care facilities to offer technical assistance, see where they stand, what their needs are,” he added.

Long term care facilites have faced their own unique challenges in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, as they are the part of the population at greatest risk for infection, serious illness and death from the virus. Residents aged 60 and older have accounted for just 28 percent of all COVID-19 cases in Washington, but have accounted for 90 percent of reported deaths.

The state believes that testing, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and other prevention and control measures will help stop transmission.

Personal protective equipment, test kits and shipment materials are among the supplies that have gone out to these care facilities. The materials will be sent in waves every three days.

Positive results will be reported following regular protocol and then referred to the local health jurisdiction for an investigation. Local officials will conduct contact tracing and the individual who tested positive will go into isolation or quarantine. Staff members who test positive but are asymptomatic should stay out of work for ten days starting from the day of the test.

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