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Four staff members test positive for virus but no residents contract disease

The Springs at Wilsonville is the only assisted living facility in Wilsonville that has reported COVID-19 cases within its community. However, while four staff members tested positive for the disease, no residents have. The facility has also gone nearly two weeks since its last positive test and all four staff members who tested positive will be back to work starting Friday.

"Catching it early stops outbreaks," The Springs Chief Operating Officer Brenda Connelly said. "In this case that was demonstrated by the outcome that no residents were infected."

A COVID-19 positive test was first reported at the facility June 18, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Connelly said that an asymptomatic caregiver notified staff that they had been exposed to the disease. After that, the employee stayed home from work and was tested. Meanwhile, residents and staff members began receiving tests and the facility went into lockdown, meaning residents had to isolate and eat meals in their rooms.

"Immediately whenever we have someone who fears they have been exposed or tests positive we take steps to do broader testing for broader staff and residents they had been in contact with," Connelly said.

The entire community was tested over the course of a couple weeks, Connelly added.

Connely said the caregiver may have had contact with a resident while exposed to the virus but none of the residents tested positive. She posited that staff members wearing personal protective equipment, sanitizing and taking other precautions prevented the virus's spread.

"It's not surprising to me that no residents were infected because the staff took precautions regardless of if they (tested) positive or not," she said.

Still, the facility had three more positive tests among staff members, which Connelly said were also contracted from outside of the community and unrelated to the initial positive test.

The facility conducts screenings of staff members before they enter the building each day, but Connelly said the screenings are insufficient because so many carriers are asymptomatic. She said additional precautions the facility takes include surface tests, paying employees to stay home if they fear they've been exposed and requiring employees who go on vacation to isolate for 14 days and test negative after seven days following their return. Connelly also said the facility has access to a number of different testing labs, some of which provide results within 48 hours.

"If we're going to see symptoms it's 5-7 days after they have been exposed. That's too long. By the time they have symptoms they have been in the community a long time. You have to have other means (beyond staff screening) to figure it out," Connelly said.

Saturday will mark 14 days since the facility had a positive test at its assisted living facility and Monday will mark 14 days since the last positive test at its memory care facility. Once 14 days are up, visitation will open up again and new residents can move into the facility.

Connelly lauded staff members for keeping their composure and doing their jobs during this anxious time.

"For them to show up, wear all of their gear, masks and face shields, going in and out of every apartment, all of this adds to an already difficult role," she said. "They put a smile on their face and make sure residents aren't fearful no matter how they might be feeling."

She acknowledged the increased risk of an outbreak within a facility but listed having a sound strategy, communication and education as preventative measures.

"Across the country we're going to continue to see cases rise and we're going to do our best to proactively detect it and keep it out when it comes in," Connelly said.


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