23 Nursing Home Residents Have Died Since 3 Staffers Attended a 300-Person Wedding

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Two nursing homes in Washington state are being invested by health officials after staff members attended a 300-person wedding, potentially leading to coronavirus outbreaks at each of the facilities.

Columbia Crest Center and Lake Ridge Center, both located in Grant County, have reported 23 resident deaths between the facilities since the Nov 7. event.

In addition, the Grant County Health District said an additional death at another facility in Ephrata can be directly linked to a wedding attendee, according to a press release issued last Thursday. However, health officials indicated they would not release the name of the that facility “to protect the identity of the individuals involved and their protected health information.”

According to the press release, three long-term care facility workers self-attested they had attended the large wedding, which was held in Ritzville — approximately 60 miles southwest of Spokane. Two of the staff members are said to work at Lake Ridge, while another is employed at the center in Ephrata. Health officials say the staff members worked while contagious, but were not aware they were carrying the virus.

Sixty-five residents at Lake Ridge Center, located in Moses Lake, tested positive for the virus. According to the press release, 15 residents later died. At Columbia Crest Center, 27 residents have tested positive, and the facility has reported five deaths. Each facility has three deaths that are “pending review,” the health department said.

County Health Department Spokesperson Theresa Adkinson told TODAY that health officials are working to obtain more information regarding the outbreaks, and about the wedding’s possible connection to patients’ deaths.

“Through our investigations, we have learned that the staff cares for all residents throughout their shifts,” Adkinson said in an email. “All of the cases that died tested positive after the wedding. The facilities do twice a week testing prior to the wedding and have continued this regimented testing.”

Another nearby nursing home, McKay Healthcare & Rehab Center, has also experienced a recent outbreak. While the facility was initially investigated as potentially being connected to the wedding, health officials found the cases at that particular location began several weeks prior to the event. 

County Health Officer Alexander Brzezny released a statement regarding the outbreak, saying:

GCHD staff and I wish to extend our most sincere condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones and to our communities affected by these tragic deaths of our most vulnerable community members. We also extend our encouragement and sympathies to the many dedicated healthcare staff and community members who have joined us on this fight against our common enemy.

At the time of the Nov. 7 event, Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order capped wedding receptions at 30, according to the Tri-City Herald. It’s unclear as to how an event of this magnitude managed to slip through the cracks. 

Do you think those who violated the executive order should be held responsible? If so, to what extent? Let us know in the comments!