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Oregon plans to test all residents, staff at long-term care facilities for COVID-19

Care centers have been hot spots for coronavirus outbreaks and largely affect people who are most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus.
Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo
A laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Lake Success, N.Y. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved faster testing protocols as the viral outbreak continues to spread worldwide. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Every resident and staff member at long-term care facilities across Oregon will be tested for COVID-19, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday night.

Care centers in Oregon have been hot spots for coronavirus outbreaks and largely affect people who are most vulnerable to severe complications from the virus. Nursing facilities account for about 50% of the outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Oregon despite representing less than 20% of the total number of facilities, according to Gov. Brown’s office.

On Sunday, a care center in Canby reported three staff members and 31 residents tested positive for COVID-19. In Southeast Portland, more than 100 people associated with Healthcare at Foster Creek tested positive for COVID-19, including 30 people who died. Several families have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. The facility was shut down in May.

Gov. Brown’s office said testing will start at care centers at the highest risk of having an outbreak. Most of those facilities are in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill, Marion and Polk counties, according to the governor’s office. There are currently 16 long-term care facilities reporting COVID-19 cases involving residents or staff. That’s down from a recent peak of 27 care centers, Gov. Brown’s office said.

More details about the state’s plan will be released later this week.

In addition to testing, public health officials plan to help long-term care facilities implement the following recommended practices for monitoring COVID-19:

  • Conducting active daily screenings for fever and COVID-like symptoms for all residents and staff, providing testing for any residents or staff with even mild symptoms. Residents who test positive should be isolated.
  • Providing testing for all staff every month on a staggered weekly basis, with the goal of having 25% of all staff tested each week over the course of the month.
  • Providing testing for all residents and staff if there is a single new confirmed or suspected resident case or a confirmed staff case, and retesting weekly until at least 14 days pass without a new positive result. Residents who test positive and are symptomatic should be isolated.
  • Testing all new residents prior to admission or readmission, including transfers from hospitals or other health care facilities. Even new residents who test negative should be quarantined for 14 days.

Visits to Oregon care centers have been restricted since mid-March.

“Expanding testing is an essential first step that will allow us to examine how visitation policies can be safely and incrementally eased,” Gov. Brown said.

RELATED: Canby long-term care facility reports 34 cases in COVID-19 outbreak

RELATED: Public health expert not surprised by Oregon's recent spike in COVID-19 cases

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