At the start of 2020, the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, cared for roughly 120 residents with 180 staff members. Although this facility has the highest rating of 5 stars on the federal government Nursing Home Compare website, it received a deficiency during its most recent inspection survey in April 2019 for failing to provide and implement an infection control program. The deficiency was considered less serious because it was associated with “minimal harm or potential for actual harm.”
This Seattle-based nursing home became, in the words of former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden, “ground zero” in the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the first 46 confirmed deaths attributable to COVID-19 in Washington by mid-March 2020, 30 deaths, more than 1 in 4 residents of the facility, were associated with Life Care Center. Dozens of residents at the facility have been transferred to the hospital, and those remaining have been isolated in their rooms. Because of a no-visitors policy, these residents have not been able to spend time with their families and loved ones. Testing of residents and staff for COVID-19 was slow, and communication with families has reportedly been poor. To make matters worse, dozens of staff members at the facility were reported to have COVID-19 symptoms and eventually quarantined at home. The lack of available staff led the US Department of Health and Human Services to send in a 28-person strike team to assist clinicians at the home.
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Barnett ML, Grabowski DC. Nursing Homes Are Ground Zero for COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Health Forum. 2020;1(3):e200369. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2020.0369