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New state rules for nursing homes, assisted living facilities to help slow coronavirus

Gov. Inslee announced new statewide protocols for visitors and staff to these facilities. The first known U.S. outbreak of COVID-19 was in a Kirkland nursing home.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Visitors, staff and volunteers at nursing homes and long-term care centers will have to abide by new rules issued by the state in an attempt to slow the spread of the new coronavirus among older adults and people with chronic medical conditions, Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Tuesday.

Those two groups have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, the respiratory disease which is caused by the new coronavirus.

A Kirkland nursing home, Life Care Center, was the location of the United States' first widespread outbreak of the respiratory illness COVID-19. King County has reported that 19 people who were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 had some association with Life Care Center.

RELATED: Another Kirkland senior community reports possible case of COVID-19

“The risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 appears to be higher in people 60 years or older and in those with chronic health conditions,” Inslee said in prepared statements. “And we know there is an increased risk among people while live in congregated settings, such as long-term care facilities. We need to protect our older adults, and these rules will help.” 

The new rules for assisted living centers and long-term care centers are:

  • Residents are limited to one adult visitor a day. Visits must take place in the resident's room. The rule does not apply to end-of-life situations
  • All visitors must comply with COVID-19 screening and precautionary measures, including personal protective equipment, keeping their distance, and visiting in designated locations.
  • Owners and operators of care facilities must keep a visitors log for 30 days.
  • Employees or volunteers must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the start of each shift.
  • People living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities who are under an order of quarantine must be in their rooms away from other people.
  • Owners and employees are prohibited from disclosing confidential health information.

The state will also contract with a case management entity to work with care facilities to provide information to family members.

Josephine Caring Community in Stanwood is now under lockdown after three residents tested positive for coronavirus. Seven more tests are outstanding and two of those people are staff at the facility.

The three positive cases involve a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 90s and a man in his 80s.  

Officials say because of other nursing home outbreaks in our area they were able to put people in isolation sooner which will help with their treatment. Five residents are now in isolation.

Meantime, signs in the windows tell family members of the 150 or so people living here that no visitors are allowed for the next month.

“I can tell you that's incredibly tough for families,” said Josephine CEO Terry Robertson. “I had a woman in my lobby yesterday who was crying because she couldn't see her husband who she's been married to for 64 years. It’s gonna be a rough road for a while.”

Inslee made the announcement at a Tuesday morning press conference, that also outlined changes in rules to unemployment benefits to help people whose jobs are disrupted by a workplace outbreak of COVID-19.

Life Care Center spokesman Tim Killian said on Monday that 31 residents still in the facility have tested positive for the virus.

The number of deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington state is at least 22.

Life Care said 70 of its 180 employees have shown symptoms and are no longer working.

Health officials have reported more than 160 cases statewide, but Inslee said that since testing has been limited, that number is likely to be higher. 

"We know there are many, many people in Washington who have not been diagnosed and may have no idea have no symptoms at this moment," Inslee said. "The number I use is about 1,000 and it may be more than that, quite frankly."

Also see | Real-time updates: Coronavirus outbreak in Washington state

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.