Long-term care facilities linked to 61% of WA virus deaths

SEATTLE (AP) — More than 60% of coronavirus deaths in Washington are linked to long-term care facilities and authorities say more than 250 such locations in the state have reported at least one COVID-19 case.

The state’s COVID-19 response team released information Wednesday showing there were 507 deaths tied to such facilities as of May 2, accounting for 61% of virus fatalities in the state at the time. There were 2,894 positive cases associated with care facilities, representing 19% of total cases as of last week.

Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the nation’s first deadly cluster of COVID-19 cases happened at a Seattle-area care facility, where more than 40 people died.

The Washington state Department of Health says long-term care cases include residents, employees and visitors and notes that authorities aren’t certain that all the cases were exposed to the virus at the facilities.

The state agency that regulates such facilities says 94 assisted living facilities, 76 nursing homes, 51 adult family homes and 30 supported living providers have reported one or more COVID-19 cases among residents or staff as of May 5.

Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday state officials are reviewing the possibility of using antibody testing, to retroactively measure the spread of the coronavirus.

He said the testing wouldn’t be used as a way to clear those who test positive to return to work, however, KUOW reported.

Inslee said state officials had been talking with the manufacturer Abbott Laboratories, Inc, “about the potential of expanding large-scale surveillance antibody testing in the state.”

Abbott’s COVID-19 antibody test, which is done through a blood draw, is already being used by the University of Washington’s Virology Lab. The test detects coronavirus antibodies, the proteins created by the immune system in response to the presence of a virus.

Virology Lab officials have reported the test has a perfect rate of detecting antibodies in those who have them. However, they’ve cited a 99.6% rate of specificity, meaning there’s potential to see false positives for those who haven’t produced coronavirus antibodies.

More than 15,900 people in the state have tested positive and at least 870 people have died from the coronavirus as of Wednesday. 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.

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