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Spokane Facility Sees First COVID-19 Death At State Veterans Home

A resident at the Spokane Veterans Home has died after testing positive for COVID-19. It marks the first death at a state-run veterans’ home in Washington.

The announcement Wednesday of the resident’s death came less than 24 hours after the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said two residents there tested positive for COVID-19. 

None of the three other state-run veterans homes have confirmed cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Spokane facility joins the two state-run homes for veterans in Oregon, both of which have dealt with the disease caused by coronavirus. The veterans home in Lebanon in Oregon’s Willamette Valley reported 19 positive cases and three deaths.

At the Dalles, Oregon, location, there have been no coronavirus-related deaths and one positive case for a resident in their 70s, who is in isolation.

There are no confirmed cases or deaths in Idaho’s three state-run veterans homes, located in Boise, Lewiston and Pocatello.

The Spokane death comes a week after an employee at the facility tested positive. 

According to the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, the employee had COVID-like symptoms and was tested March 23. After 72 hours passed without symptoms — and before the test results were back — the employee returned and worked a partial shift March 30. The person has been cleared to return to work by their physician and the Spokane Regional Health District.

The state is investigating whether there’s a connection to the employee and the Spokane residents who tested positive.

Staff are being screened every time they enter, according to state Veterans Affairs spokesperson Heidi Audette. Residents are examined every four hours for symptoms or fever. Employees wear masks when providing treatment, as the Spokane Regional Health Department recommends.

“I want to say how incredibly grateful I am to the staff at the Spokane Veterans Home, who are coming to work each day to serve our veterans and their families,” Patrick McNabb, the facility’s administrator, said in a statement. 

Washington has 481 residents in the state’s four veterans homes in Spokane, Walla Walla, Port Orchard and Orting. 

Spokane’s home has 85 residents. The average age at the Spokane facility is 79, and 86% of the residents are men.

So far, the worst outbreak in Northwest’s veterans home is at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, Oregon, southeast of Salem. Of the 19 confirmed cases, three residents have died and 13 declared recovered, according to Tyler Francke, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Three residents remain in isolation.

State veterans homes are assisted living facilities for former members of the U.S. armed forces, and are owned and operated by state governments.  According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the homes date to the Civil War to provide shelter for homeless and disabled veterans.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly said test results were pending for two Spokane Veterans Home residents.

Copyright 2020 Northwest News Network

Nick Deshais roams eastern Washington, North Idaho and northeastern Oregon as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network. Nick has called the region home since 2008. As a journalist, he has always sought to tell the stories of the area’s many different people, from the dryland farmers above the Odessa aquifer to the roadbuilders of Spokane. Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Nick worked as a print reporter in Washington, Oregon and Michigan. Most recently, he covered city hall and urban affairs at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. Nick was raised in rural Northern California, and is a graduate of Portland State University, where he earned degrees in history and math. When off the clock, Nick enjoys state-spanning bike tours, riding subways in foreign cities and walking slowly through museums. Nick’s reporting and writing has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies and the Best of the West. He was a Knight-Wallace fellow at the University of Michigan in 2017, and a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists in 2011.