An undisclosed number of staff at the Cove of Cascadia skilled nursing facility in Bellevue have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting an indefinite lockdown to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our residents safe,” said Cove of Cascadia Resident Services Director Laurie Koutsky.
A regular visitor to the facility told the Express that the home was closed to visitors on Tuesday of last week, and that it would be for at least two weeks. Koutsky would not say whether residents at the facility were infected, or how long it would be locked down
Nationally, about 59% of nursing home staff were vaccinated as of July 21, according to data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That’s about the same as the overall percentage of fully vaccinated adults at that time, but much lower than the roughly 80% of eldercare residents nationwide who are vaccinated, according to Medicare.
Both the Cove and Silvercreek Assisted Living in Hailey—Blaine County’s two eldercare facilities—had COVID outbreaks in November of 2020.
Since the pandemic began, there have been five deaths at the Cove in Bellevue due to COVID-19, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a report published Friday. Overall, long-term care facilities, which house older and more vulnerable populations, have borne the brunt of the pandemic: A total of 805 people have died across 179 long-term care facilities in Idaho since the pandemic began, accounting for more than a third of all death in the state, according to Health and Welfare data.
As of July 23, the state reported that 1,285 people across 24 long-term care facilities had COVID-19.
At Silvercreek, staff vaccinations slow
Silvercreek Assisted Living owner and manager Justin Yarmark said only 25-30% of his staff are vaccinated. While it would be legal to mandate vaccinations, he said that doing so would have a serious impact on his business. Silvercreek is already short-staffed, he said, and only 22 of its 32 beds at are occupied due to the labor shortage.
“For the last 90 days we’ve had our hair on fire here and I am very uncomfortable taking new patients,” Yarmark said. “I’ve had to discharge two patients because we did not have the staff to take care of them, and I am paying $40 per hour for some floor positions.”
Silvercreek requires all staff to wear masks, Yarmark said and extra safety equipment and protocols are required of staff who are not vaccinated.
“But if I required my staff to get vaccines,” he said, “I would not be able to run a business.”
Earlier this month, both the St. Luke's Health System--Idaho's largest--and Saint Alphonsus, the state's only Level II trauma center in Boise, added COVID-19 to their lists of required inoculations. All staff, contractors and others who conduct business in St. Luke's facilities will need to be vaccinated by Sept. 1. Saint Alphonsus' deadline is Sept. 21.