As rumors about the number of positive COVID-19 cases inside the Enumclaw Health and Rehabilitation Center grow, information coming out of the nursing home is becoming more limited.
Enumclaw Rehab confirmed 10 clients — four having been sent to St. Elizabeth Hospital, and six quarantined in their rooms — and two employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus late last month. The facility has around 60 clients.
But last week, it appears some clients received a call saying the number of positive cases has increased. Enumclaw Rehab and its parent company, EmpRes Healthcare, declined to confirm whether this information was accurate.
According to Abraham Ritter, the son of a client at Enumclaw Rehab, both he and the family of his mother’s roommate were told “the positive count went from three to 13 among residents.”
It’s unclear how this relates to the already-confirmed number of residents having tested positive for COVID-19. The call came in the middle of last week, coinciding with the publication of the Courier-Herald’s article about Enumclaw Rehab and its number of positive cases.
It’s also unknown if the alleged new cases are being quarantined at the nursing home, or if any have moved to St. Elizabeth.
One of the few concrete details is that Enumclaw Rehab appears to be cracking down on information leaving the facility.
“We want to take a moment to acknowledge all concerns and inquiries related to COVID-19. We appreciate those concerns,” Executive Director Jennifer Scott wrote in an email. “We strive to be a constructive resource to those interested in such data, but we must also maintain employee and resident privacy. As such, we are unable to provide any further information in that regard.”
The Courier-Herald has not asked for any identifying information about patients, only for the numbers of those who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
This information blackout doesn’t appear to be limited to the media. Multiple family members of clients, and even clients themselves, say they know little of what’s happening inside Enumclaw Rehab in terms of how many people might be infected.
“I’ve asked that question and haven’t gotten an answer,” said client Tom Cantrall, who moved into the facility a few years back.
Cantrall himself has tested positive for COVID-19, but hasn’t shown any serious symptoms so far, he said, although he added those who have tested negative are showing symptoms.
“What’s going on? We just don’t know what’s happening,” he said. “I’m in isolation, which is a pain in the rear for staff here, but they’re run to death trying to keep up. They’re doing the best they can, they’re coping as best they can, but it’s not enough right now… if you had the National Guard, it wouldn’t be enough.”
Other family members said the only time they’ve gotten any information about how many clients have tested positive for COVID-19 was through the Courier-Herald.
As of April 6, King County has reported a total of 32 positive cases in the 98022 ZIP code, and five deaths.
MANDATORY TESTING FOR ASYMPTOMATIC EMPLOYEES?
While Enumclaw Rehab has stated clients are getting multiple temperature checks daily, a fact that has been corroborated by family members, it does not appear employees are being tested unless they show symptoms of infection.
Ritter said he had a prior conversation about testing employees with the facility administration, saying their response was that Enumclaw Rehab could not test employees daily based on guidelines coming from the Centers for Disease Control and the Washington state Department of Health.
“As it stands right now, there is no recommendation, either from the CDC or from the WA State DOH, to screen asymptomatic healthcare workers (or members of the general public who are asymptomatic),” said King County Health Department Communications Specialist Kate Cole in an email. “Therefore we and our healthcare provider partners are not using limited testing supplies on testing people who are asymptomatic.”
According to the Department of Health, the State Public Health Lab can test more than 200 samples with a 48-hour turnaround as of March 14, and their goal is to get up to 400 samples a day.
“As of March 12, the University of Washington Virology Lab had capacity for 2,200 specimens per day. Their goal is 5,000 tests per day,” the department reported. “Commercial labs across the state — including LabCorp and Quest, which are each reporting capacity near 2,000 specimens per day — are working to get online and begin processing tests.”
These answers appeared to do little to mollify Ritter, who compared not testing employees daily to the famous “Russian Roulette” scene from the 1978 movie “The Deer Hunter.”
“If we’re waiting for symptoms, that person has been spreading the disease for likely two weeks. And in a nursing home, they are among the most medically-fragile patients there are,” he said. “Unless something changes, until someone is willing to look at this different and so something like testing employees, that nursing home is going to turn into a killing field.”
POSITIVE CASE AT LIVING COURT
Living Court, a senior-assisted living facility next to both Enumclaw Rehab and St. Elizabeth Hospital, confirmed to the Courier-Herald last week that a client tested positive for COVID-19.
“The resident — age 90 — had recently been transferred to St. Elizabeth Hospital for unrelated injuries, where she is still receiving care. We were informed of her positive results on March 27, 2020. The resident is also experiencing other underlying health issues,” Prestige, the facilities’ parent company, said in a statement. “We are working closely with the CDC and local healthcare authorities to assess the situation. We continue to screen employees and other residents and will test all those who exhibit symptoms. We have limited visitor access and limited or suspended activities within the community. We are consistently following the environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures set by the CDC throughout our organization.”