An outbreak among staff at St. Charles in Redmond originated from prolonged exposure to a COVID-positive patient who initially tested negative twice, according to a statement from the hospital.
“The patient—who had underlying health conditions that at times made it difficult to wear a mask—was admitted to St. Charles Redmond on Dec. 31 and was initially tested twice for COVID-19,” according to a statement late Friday. “Because both tests resulted negative, St. Charles caregivers continued to wear droplet precaution personal protective equipment (PPE).”
“Droplet precaution PPE” is a traditional surgical mask and protective eyewear.
A third test on the patient Jan. 6th revealed the positive result.
To date, one patient and 33 St. Charles caregivers at the Redmond hospital have tested positive for COVID-19.
Because the health system began its vaccination campaign Dec. 21, none of the 33 caregivers at the Redmond hospital were fully vaccinated, according to the release.
An investigation with Deschutes County Health Services and the hospital’s Infection Prevention team revealed the caregivers’ PPE was “overwhelmed by prolonged exposure to the highly-symptomatic COVID-positive patient.”
“The important learning from this outbreak is that negative COVID-19 test results are not foolproof,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “In spite of negative test results, if a patient is highly symptomatic, we will need to treat them as if they are COVID-19 positive and aerosolizing, in which case the higher level of PPE is required.”
Evidence suggests that COVID-19 tests are most accurate five to seven days after exposure.
The virus incubates up to 14 days, taking time to build up in a person’s system, according to the statement.
The St. Charles Infection Prevention team on Friday expected to complete its outreach to patients who may have been at risk of exposure due to the timing of their stay at the Redmond hospital.
All current inpatients at the Redmond hospital have been informed that none of them were exposed.
“We have a strong contact tracing system in place for caregivers that is working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Absalon said. “In the meantime, it’s important to stress that we feel confident our Redmond hospital is a safe place to receive care.”
The health system has also instituted some changes at the Redmond hospital, including:
· Offering COVID-19 testing to all St. Charles Redmond hospital-based caregivers
· Asking caregivers to stay home and get tested if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild
· Increasing air exchanges to six times per hour
· Increasing air filtration to more than the CDC recommendation (+90% filtration at .3 microns)
· Instructing caregivers in direct patient care roles to use N95 respirators and eye protection throughout their shift while the outbreak is ongoing
· Adding hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to more locations throughout the facility
· Asking caregivers to eat in the cafeteria or on the outside patio rather than in break rooms
· Adding maximum capacity signage to all break rooms and conference rooms to ensure physical distancing can be maintained
· Temporarily limiting visitors to a higher degree than before
“This sort of situation isn’t any one person’s fault,” Absalon said. “Everyone is working hard to maintain a safe environment, and as an organization we continue to learn and adjust to improve safety for all.”