The Washington Veterans Home in Retsil has suspended visits to the facility after a resident died recently from COVID-19 complications. Thirty-one residents and eight employees have tested positive for the virus, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said on Monday. (File photo)

The Washington Veterans Home in Retsil has suspended visits to the facility after a resident died recently from COVID-19 complications. Thirty-one residents and eight employees have tested positive for the virus, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said on Monday. (File photo)

Retsil resident dies of COVID-19; 39 at facility test positive

Almost all residents are vaccinated, but just 52% of employees are, according to media reports

PORT ORCHARD — A resident at the Washington Veterans Home in Retsil has died from complications of COVID-19 and 31 residents have been diagnosed as having the coronavirus, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed Monday.

The state agency said in a news release Aug. 13 that seven additional residents were diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The state agency also said eight employees of the veterans home have contracted COVID-19. No other information was provided by Veterans Affairs other than those affected tested positive in the days after July 30. The information became available to the news media last week after a letter was sent to residents and their families.

Nearly all of the residents at the Retsil facility — 97% — are vaccinated, according to the Associated Press and Kitsap Sun. But only 174 employees out of 334 — just 52% — have done so.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s most recent directive calls for all state employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 18.

In the letter to residents and their families, the Washington Veterans Home stated that those living at the facility are tested “every 3-7 days until 14 days have passed without a positive result” and are “screened and monitored for symptoms regularly.” Staff members are tested each week and screened when they arrive at work, the agency reported.

Heidi Audette, a spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs, said in an email statement that the veterans home is holding scheduled vaccination clinics for unvaccinated residents and staff on-site.

“We encourage all residents, staff and community members who are able and eligible to be vaccinated to consider getting vaccinated for COVID-19,” Audette said.

Audette said visits with residents at the facility have been suspended for the next two weeks and will only be allowed for what she termed “compassionate care” visits. She said residents are receiving their meals in their rooms.

The spokeswoman also said: “Additional environmental cleaning continues to take place and we will conduct enhanced surveillance, including symptom and temperature checks, during every shift, for residents in affected areas for the next 14 days. Staff members continue to closely monitor all residents.”

On April 12, the state veterans affairs department announced that its sites statewide were to receive upgrades to their HVAC air handling systems and ultraviolet lighting to filter air and decontaminate surfaces, furniture and equipment through $13 million in funding from the CARES Act Extended Care Facilities Construction Grant.

At the Retsil facility, the grant funding was allocated to replace flooring in the skilled nursing facilities and remove carpeting from resident rooms and common spaces. The state agency said it has plans to replace the flooring throughout the 160,000-square-foot campus with vinyl plank. The Retsil facility funding also includes the replacement of its food servery space.

The Washington Veterans Home just outside of Port Orchard is a skilled nursing care facility accommodating 240 residents.

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