Multiple nursing home patients died of COVID-19 linked to a wedding attended by staff

The seven patients who died at a Washington state nursing home did not attend the wedding

If you’re still wondering why social distancing, quarantines and mask-wearing is so important, consider what’s going on in Washington state.

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Though none of the patients at multiple nursing homes in the state attended a 300-person plus wedding, several of the staff entrusted to take care of them did. And unbeknownst to them, some of those staffers carried the virus back to their job. Ultimately, the wedding was traced back to the homes and to the deaths of seven of their patients.

The sad tale unfolded in the rural town of Ritzville, Washington. On Nov. 7, a couple flouted state mandates and held a wedding attended by over 300 people, according to The Washington Post. That one wedding seeded an ongoing outbreak that is believed to have contributed to the deaths of at least seven men in three nursing home facilities.

Nursing home
(Credit: Adobe Stock)

“Our investigations have determined that there were long term care staff who tested positive for COVID-19 who attended the large wedding in Ritzville,” Grant County’s health department noted in a release, adding that that “because staff in these facilities care for entire units, direct contact with associated patients is not known.”

The seven deaths were all elderly men with existing health conditions, the county says. The men’s ages ranged from the seventies through the nineties. Health officials say that those staffers who attended the wedding put their patients at risk given that large gatherings and weddings are known superspreader events and have been linked to outbreaks all over the country.

Health officials say that they cannot definitely prove that COVID-19 is the reason for the deaths, due to the ages and health of the men. What they can say, according to the Post, is that there were staffers from at least two of the nursing homes where deaths were reported that tested positive for COVID after attending the wedding.

“Our most vulnerable community members — elderly, immunocompromised, and those with chronic conditions — are especially at risk of complications due to a COVID-19 infection and we must continue to take measures to protect them from this disease,” the release says.

Weddings in Maine and in Long Island, New York were qualified as superspreader events earlier this year. The August wedding in Maine was traced back to 178 coronavirus cases, including seven deaths. None of the seven attended the wedding. An October wedding with 113 guests at North Folk Country Club in New York was associated with 34 COVID-19 cases.

Washington was the first state in the US to report a COVID case, when a man returning from Wuhan, China, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in January. Wuhan is where the pandemic began. Now, the Post reports a 20% increase in Washington’s hospitalization rate, and daily reported deaths have increased by 167%.

Families Allowed To Reunite At Kirkland Life Care Center, Site Of First Coronavirus Outbreak In US
Deborah Trigueiro reacts to seeing her husband Douglas Smith at the Life Care Center of Kirkland on August 24, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. This is only the second time they have seen each other in person since February when the coronavirus (COVID-19) raced through the facility. Prior to their first visit last week they had to talk through the window on a phone. Recently, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee issued a directive to allow visitors to long-term care facilities. The families cannot touch, must visit outside and stay socially distant. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing home, was an early epicenter for coronavirus outbreaks in the U.S. According to a report by the CDC, at least 37 coronavirus deaths have been linked to this facility. Prior to (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

Washington governor Jay Inslee increased restrictions around the state on Nov. 15 for a four-week period. Those restrictions include a ban on indoor dining, limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings, gym closings, retail capacity limits, and the shutdown of youth athletics.

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“Your choice to gather with those outside your household could lead to additional cases of COVID-19 and even death,” the health department statement says. “Please protect those you love, by staying home.”

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