WashCo: Senior living owners refuse to provide free COVID tests

Coronavirus

Rock Creek Retirement has reported 26 cases and one resident death from the virus

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Owners of the Rock Creek Retirement community refuse to provide free COVID-19 tests to residents, despite its current outbreak, said the Washington County Health Department.

“The only way we know there’s positive cases is if we test and we’re able to confirm,” said Jillian Powell, the health department’s senior program coordinator for the congregate living COVID strike team.

The senior living community, owned by Holiday Senior Living, has 26 reported cases and one resident death from the virus. The health department started tracking the outbreak in mid-September.

Health officials believe there may be undetected cases because of the lack of testing.

“A lot of individuals are vaccinated at this community, and they may not know that they’re positive and they may be continuing their regular daily lives and potentially exposing others,” Powell said.

Mechelle Komraus, a caretaker for a man who lives at Rock Creek Retirement, has talked to the regional manager about her concerns and thinks that this is a company-wide issue.

“I became aware that there are multiple other facilities that are owned and operated by Holiday Senior Living that are having an unusually high amount of COVID cases and COVID deaths,” said Komraus.

The health department said that Holiday Retirement turned down its efforts to help, including closing communal dining, free COVID tests, informing residents and family, monitoring for symptoms and working with their infection prevention team.

On Wednesday, KOIN 6 News contacted multiple managers about the outbreak via email and in-person — we were told they are handling it and could not comment. It was not until Friday that they issued a statement.

The statement said, in part, that the retirement center remains “in regular communication with Washington County Department of Health” and their “rigorous infection control and safety protocols remain firmly in place, including conducting follow-up testing based on contact tracing.”

“After more than a year of relative success with keeping COVID-19 at bay, beginning in early September and spanning about five weeks, a total of 28 residents and staff who were all previously vaccinated tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement read. “When the positivity rate increased in our community, we quickly escalated precautions including delivering meals to residents’ apartments, limiting guests to essential visitors only, and conducted follow-up testing based on contact tracing. We are grateful that our community has a high vaccination rate that we believe kept the outbreak to a minimum.

“All but three residents who tested positive have now recovered and are doing well. Two residents remain in isolation but with no COVID complications. Sadly, one resident, who had tested positive, passed away.”

The statement, which is attributed to Holiday Retirement Vice President of Operations Javiera Garcia, concluded by saying since the pandemic began, their life’s work has been to protect the safety and well-being of their residents and staff.

“In fact, infection rates at our communities remain lower than those in the general public,” the statement said. “There is nothing more important than the well-being of those in our community. We remain committed to doing everything in our power to protect the well-being of our residents and staff.”

According to the Oregon Health Authority’s report from Wednesday, Astor House Senior Living, another facility owned by Holiday Retirement in Newberg, has 15 reported cases and seven deaths.

Health department officials encourage families to know the difference between putting a loved one in assisted living versus independent living locations like Rock Creek Retirement. Independent facilities aren’t regulated by DHS State Department of Health and Human Services in the same manner as long-term care or assisted living.

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