PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center said a total of 19 patients became sick with COVID-19 after an exposure and an outbreak at their hospital.
“The investigation for underlying cause continues and remains unknown,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence Neville said during an update on Monday.
None of the patients were admitted because of the virus — and none tested positive upon admission. Additionally, six employees who were caring for the patients also tested positive.
He said the filters were evaluated on every floor and no issue was discovered.
The cluster happened inside a surgical unit that typically treats stroke and heart attack patients. The first patient tested positive on December 27.
Epidemiologists believe that patient caught the virus in the community but didn’t test positive until checking into the hospital. The next day, 2 more patients tested positive and that’s when the unit was put into isolation.
The entire hospital was tested for COVID but all the positives were isolated to that one unit, which is currently closed for deep cleaning. The hospital still hasn’t tracked down the underlying cause of the spread but said all staff members were wearing masks and following proper protocols.
The situation is impacting some surgeries.
“We did reduce the number of surgeries that we were performing to redistribute staff, and on that note we asked potentially-exposed health care workers to self-quarantine.” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lawrence Neville. “It was 86. It is 59 as of today and we keep working with them to maker sure they are safe.”
Due to a staffing crunch, some of the asymptomatic staff will be allowed to return to work and be tested daily.
The exposed staff who have received one dose of the vaccine will still receive their second. 10,000 PeaceHealth workers have been vaccinated so far. Neville said only one of them had a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine. Two others had minor reactions.
“To date we haven’t found any breach in our PPE protocol,” Neville said. He said they are still investigating exactly how the outbreak occurred, but that prevalence in the community played a role.
Samples from the cluster have been sent out for genetic testing to see if it might be a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that is starting to spread across the country.
Dr. Nevilleexpects to get those results back within 10 to 14 days. But, he said, either way the protocol is the same: masking, distancing and handwashing.