Submitted by the Washington State Department of Health
People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are often the very people who are at highest risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 — older adults and people with underlying chronic health conditions. Since people live together in close proximity in a nursing home, it can be easy for COVID-19 to spread from person to person in that environment. COVID-19 most likely gets introduced to nursing homes when someone who works or volunteers there has COVID-19, but doesn’t have any symptoms yet.
Keeping friends and family from visiting long-term care facilities is painful, but it is one way we protect our loved ones. If you have a loved one living at a long-term care facility, be sure to keep in close touch. They may appreciate getting little gifts in the mail, like exercise bands or reading material. Call or video chat frequently — you can just talk or maybe find a way to include your loved one in a game or simple exercise routine you can all do together. Remind them to wash their hands and stay at least six feet away from other residents.
Protecting long-term care residents from risk
In Washington, over 60% of all the people who died of COVID-19 were connected in some way to a long-term care facility, like a nursing home, assisted living facility, or adult family home. This includes employees and visitors as well as residents. Many of these people were probably exposed to COVID-19 at the long-term care facility. Some people may have visited the long-term care facility after they had been exposed to COVID-19.
Testing staff and residents at nursing homes is an important part of our plan to protect people who are at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
All nursing homes in Washington are required to test all residents who agree to be tested for COVID-19. They are also required to test all of their staff. This testing will show how many people in these facilities have COVID-19 and will help us improve our work to stop the spread of COVID-19 among residents and staff. So far, 187 facilities have either completed this testing or are about to, having received all the testing supplies they need. The remaining 24 facilities will complete their testing as soon as possible.
If you know someone living at a long-term care facility, see if you can arrange a visit through a glass window or door. Make colorful signs to show them, wave, and delight in seeing each other’s faces!
Information changes rapidly. Check the state’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date and reliable info at coronavirus.wa.gov.
Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state may be found at www.doh.wa.gov/coronavirus. You can also contact the DOH call center, 6 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week at 1–800–525–0127.