An outbreak of the novel coronavirus linked to a hospital in Washington state continues to grow. As of Monday, at least 45 COVID-19 cases have been reported, 30 of which are staff members, while 15 are patients at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton, which is part of the CHI Franciscan medical group, according to a Kitsap Public Health District news release.
Kitsap health officials stated the cases started in early August, possibly with a staff member, and spread from there. More cases are expected to be reported as testing continues, local health officials stated during a press conference Monday.
“This is not the first hospital to have this outbreak,” Dr. Scott Lindquist of the Washington State Department of Health stated during a video conference on Monday. Lindquist added the health department is working with the hospital to find a resolution and is “confident to be able to help control this.”
The Kitsap Public Health District was notified Aug. 4 that an employee of St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton had tested positive for COVID-19. A case investigation and contact tracing subsequently began. More than a week later, five more novel coronavirus cases were reported and linked to a unit at that hospital, according to a timeline on the health department’s website.
The local health department declared an outbreak at the medical center and consulted the state department of health when more positive tests among staff and patients across multiple units of the hospital were discovered.
“Outbreaks like this are a reminder for people to stay home and get tested if there are any symptoms,” Dr. Gib Morrow, health officer for the Kitsap Public Health District, said during the conference.
Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer for CHI Franciscan, said the hospital system is “working shoulder to shoulder” with the department of health to address the outbreak. He noted that the hospital has returned to policies initially put in place when the COVID-19 crisis began.
Those policies include the limitation of visitors, including limiting to one visitor for end-of-life events.
“We’ve increased some of the protections above and beyond what the CDC originally recommended for high-risk procedures in that we are now elevating our posture until we know this outbreak has been contained,” Anderson added during the conference.
“Public health authorities are recommending several mitigation measures, including ongoing COVID-19 testing for staff and patients, robust screening for staff, and limiting non-essential access to the facility,” the Kitsap Public Health Department stated in a news release.
“To prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s critical that everyone continues to stay home when possible and have fewer, shorter and safer interactions with others. That means keeping physical distance and wearing face coverings,” department officials cautioned.