Dozens have died from virus in Oregon’s long-term care homes

By ANDREW SELSKY

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The coronavirus has had a devastating impact on nine long-term care facilities in Oregon, killing at least 24 people among 171 who have tested positive.

The fatalities represent almost half the total number of people in Oregon known to have died of COVID-19, according to data from state officials released late Saturday. In one facility alone, Healthcare at Foster Creek in Portland, nine of 35 people who became infected died, according to an announcement from the state coronavirus Joint Information Center.

“COVID-19 already has had a significant impact on Oregonians in long-term care facilities,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, director of the state Department of Human Services. “We are saddened by the tragedies that have occurred, and our thoughts are with all the residents, staff and families who have been affected.”

In response, the Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority have launched a multi-agency support team that will collaborate with local public health authorities to assess needs and to support facilities with rising numbers of residents and staff impacted by the virus.

Care facilities already receiving assistance include Healthcare at Foster Creek and Laurelhurst Village, another nursing facility in Portland. Laurelhurst Village is contracting with the state to use one of its standalone buildings as a 47-bed emergency health care center for COVID-19 patients.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the OHA and DHS to provide specialized care for people afflicted with COVID-19,” said Laurelhurst Village Director Troy Perry.

In Oregon, at least 26 long-term care facilities – nursing, assisted living, residential care facilities and adult foster homes – have reported that either a resident or staff member or both have COVID-19. There are more than 2,200 long-term care facilities in Oregon.

Nine long-term care facilities have five or more COVID-19 cases. Most are in the Portland area, with others in Corvallis, Keizer, Lebanon, Sublimity and Newberg.

As of Sunday, the Oregon Health Authority was reporting a statewide death toll of 52 with a total of 1,527 cases.

The Joint Information Center indicated there were 25 deaths among long-term care facilities, but one of them may be a miscount, putting the actual total at 24. Authorities were not immediately able to resolve the discrepancy.

Meanwhile, testing capacity is ramping up. Legacy Health, which has hospitals and clinics in Oregon and Washington state, now has the ability to run more than 650 tests per day, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown noted on Twitter. Legacy says on its website that results from tests are available in about 15 minutes.

The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

“Expanding Oregon’s testing capabilities is a key part of the fight against COVID-19,” Brown tweeted.

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Andrew Selsky is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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