Deadly Seattle-Area Outbreak Rattles Nursing Homes

March 4, 2020 — A coronavirus outbreak in a Seattle-area nursing home, identified only late last week, has already led to five deaths, highlighting just how vulnerable people in care facilities can be.

The Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA, has become ground zero of the crisis in the U.S. Fifty other patients and staff are ill with respiratory symptoms or are in the hospital with pneumonia or other respiratory conditions. All are being tested for COVID-19.

The Life Care outbreak served as a wake-up call to nursing homes and other elder-care facilities across the country, which are now using new policies, dusting off old ones, and crossing their fingers that the virus stays away.

Nursing home patients are always potentially at risk for passing viruses, particularly the flu, which kills tens of thousands of older Americans a year. Many facilities have aggressive programs for preventing the flu, including vaccinations, hand-washing stations, and warnings to visitors.

Ripe for Virus’ Spread

Some facilities have already stepped up their seasonal efforts out of concern for coronavirus. Older patients and people with other health conditions are more at risk of having a serious illness, a recent