The Kitsap Public Health District confirmed at a Monday news conference that 45 positive cases of COVID-19 have been tested at St. Michael Medical Center, formerly Harrison Medical Center of Bremerton and now part of the Tacoma-based CHI Franciscan health care system.
Dr. Gib Morrow, health officer for the county, said of those 45 cases, 30 are employees at St. Michael and 15 are patients at the 260-bed hospital. He said the COVID-19 cases have so far been isolated at the hospital in Bremerton and hasn’t spread elsewhere in the CHI Franciscan system.
“We expect this count to grow as the hospital continues comprehensive testing of staff and patients,” Morrow said.
KPHD officials said Aug. 21 that they are working with the state Department of Health to contain the outbreak.
Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer for CHI Franciscan, told reporters that three units where staff and patients tested positive still are treating COVID-19 patients already admitted, but new patients are not being admitted.
Anderson said patients in the three units with positive cases will be tested again. He said tests and screening will be ongoing for staff at the medical center. St. Michael said it is allowing visitation for critically ill patients, a patient needing a ride home or if at-home care instructions are needed for a patient who has been discharged.
More than 30 cases of COVID-19 were reported among hospital employees and patients on the afternoon of Aug. 21.
The first case linked to the outbreak was reported Aug. 4 when an employee at St. Michael has tested positive for COVID-19. At that time, the county health district enlisted a case and contact-tracing investigation that found the infected employee had no close interactions at the hospital. However, on Aug. 13, five additional COVID-19 cases were discovered connected with the one impacted unit at St. Michael.
KPHD subsequently declared an outbreak on Aug. 14 and advised the hospital to test all staff and patients in the affected unit at St. Michael. When testing found numerous positive cases, the health district recommended that testing continue and staff be screened before starting work shifts. Additional measures were advised, including restricting visitors and limiting interactions between the hospital’s units.
Anderson said the start of the outbreak at the hospital likely resulted from the first employee who tested positive early in the month, but that’s not a certainty, he said.
Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state’s epidemiologist, told reporters that infection specialists from the state Department of Health will take a look at St. Michael’s protocol to determine if there is a weakness in the process.
Lindquist also said so much community spread of the virus makes it difficult to pin just one person to the outbreak at the hospital.
“There was so much community exposure going on in the Puget Sound area at the same time that it could have been any [number of] possibilities,” Lindquist told the Seattle Times.
The outbreak has affected multiple units at the hospital. Patients who were discharged from the impacted units have been notified.
“St. Michael provides vital services to our community, and we are taking this situation extremely seriously,” Morrow said. “Our team has worked closely with the hospital to notify people who may have been exposed and prevent additional illnesses.”
Along with local public health staff who lead investigations into cases and outbreaks of COVID-19, infection control specialists from DOH will provide technical assistance and support the hospital response. Public health and the hospital have also consulted with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The hospital will post updates on its website at www.chifranciscan.org/.
As of Tuesday morning, 942 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Kitsap County. Nine individuals have died in the county from the disease.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, DOH said in a news release that it’s critical everyone continues to stay home when possible and have fewer, shorter and safer interactions with others. That means keeping physical distance and wearing face coverings, the DOH added.