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One Spokane Veterans Home resident dead, 9 hospitalized amid COVID-19 outbreak

Forty-three percent of staff members, or 47 out of 110, at the Spokane Veterans Home were vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 29.

SPOKANE, Wash. — One resident of the Spokane Veterans Home died and at least nine others are hospitalized amid a recent COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs (WDVA). 

This comes as COVID-19 cases are spiking across the Inland Northwest. Health officials reported 176 new cases and 92 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Spokane County on Friday, Aug. 6. 

WDVA reported the death of a resident following their diagnosis of COVID-19 on Monday, Aug. 2. In a statement, WDVA said it offers "sincere condolences to their family and friends during this very challenging time."

In an update sent on Saturday, Aug. 7, WDVA said it received confirmation of two additional COVID-19 positive test results for Spokane Veterans Home staff. This brought the total to ten positive residents and six staff since July 21, 2021. All residents have been transferred to local facilities, including hospitals or the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center, WDVA spokesperson Heidi Audette said. 

Audette said it is unknown how staff and residents were exposed to the virus, but a staff member was their first reported case.  

Forty-three percent of staff members, or 47 out of 110, at the Spokane Veterans Home were vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 29, according to data provided by Audette. This is compared to 89%, or 72 out of 81, residents who were vaccinated as of the same date. 

Audette said any decision on a vaccine requirement for staff would be made by Governor Jay Inslee's office since the Spokane Veterans Home is a state-operated facility. 

In a press conference at the end of July, Governor Jay Inslee said he wants to have a conversation about requiring vaccinations for people in certain industries. 

"It is a distinct possibility we would require to some degree, vaccinations of our employees depending on their job title and environment," the governor said. 

A spokesperson for Inslee's office wrote in an email to KREM on Friday, Aug. 6 that the governor is "considering vaccine mandates for those who work with vulnerable populations" and more information may be available next week.

The office hopes that everyone chooses to get vaccinated to "protect themselves and others, particularly those who work in healthcare, long-term care and other settings where they care for other people," the spokesperson wrote.

Some medical facilities in the Inland Northwest are requiring COVID-19 vaccines for staff members. MultiCare will require all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the fall, along with Pullman Regional Hospital

According to the WDVA, all staff members are wearing appropriate PPE and have adequate supplies of all PPE. 

In affected areas, resident testing will continue every three to five days until 14 days have passed without a positive result. Staff continue to be tested according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requirements.

Staff at all State Veterans Homes will continue to monitor whether they have any symptoms, including the presence of a fever. As part of WDVA's ongoing screening process, all staff members are screened upon arrival at work each day.

The Spokane Veterans Home has experienced COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the pandemic. In April 2020, the WDVA announced that nearly two dozen residents and several staff members had tested positive for the virus.