(Update: More info from hospital spokeswoman; outbreak began Jan. 6)
State, county health investigator investigating; hospital visits further limited
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – St. Charles Health System said late Wednesday it has reported an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at the St. Charles Redmond hospital campus to Deschutes County and the state of Oregon, affecting more than 30 caregivers.
As of Wednesday, 31 caregivers had tested positive for COVID-19, and their cases are being investigated in collaboration with Deschutes County Health Services and the Oregon Health Authority, the hospital system said.
An outbreak is defined as a cluster of cases that are related.
“We are taking every possible measure to stop the spread of the virus, to protect our patients and our caregivers,” said Aaron Adams, chief executive officer for the Redmond hospital.
Iman Simmons, St. Charles' chief operating officer, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday evening that 10 of the 31 caregivers had received the first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Simmons said St. Charles is working with the county and OHA to determine the timeline and origin of the outbreak.
She said the 31 caregivers will be on paid furlough for two weeks, but that they must be symptom-free and test negative for the virus before returning to work.
St. Charles spokeswoman Lisa Goodman told NewsChannel 21 Thursday, "The outbreak has caused some pressure on staffing. We’ve responded to that by asking caregivers to work overtime to cover shifts, and we brought in three traveling nurses.
"We have also slowed some procedures, and our census of patients has declined over the last five days," Goodman added.
Because St. Charles only began vaccinating caregivers on Dec. 21, none of the 31 caregivers who have tested positive would have received their second dose by Jan. 6, when the outbreak began, Goodman added.
In addition to existing COVID-19 precautions, St. Charles said the Redmond hospital has put in place new safety measures, 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 exchange 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
The hospital is also currently limiting visitors to the following groups only:
- A caregiver or attendant of a patient who needs assistance due to a language barrier or the patient’s disability, whether that disability is physical, developmental, intellectual, cognitive, behavioral or is related to altered mental status or communication, whose presence will assist the person with the disability in receiving treatment, ensure the safety of the patient or facility staff, or who must assist with activities of daily living
- A close family member of a patient undergoing end-of-life care as determined by the medical provider in charge of the patient’s care
- A parent or legal guardian of a hospitalized child. If one parent or legal guardian meets screening criteria but the other does not, only the parent or legal guardian who meets screening criteria must be guaranteed access
“We hope our community understands and will help us by following all COVID-19 restrictions, both inside and outside of our facilities,” Adams said. “The number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to be high throughout the region, and we need your help to ensure we have a healthy workforce to care for you and your loved ones.”