Kitsap County Public Health officials announced Wednesday a plan to take further steps to control a COVID-19 outbreak at a Bremerton hospital that has reported at least 45 cases, including testing every employee.
The outbreak at St. Michael Medical Center started in early August, and will likely keep growing, Dr. Gib Morrow, health officer for the Kitsap Public Health District, said earlier this week. Of the 45 cases, 30 are hospital employees and 15 are patients, he said.
The department confirmed Wednesday that, in response to the outbreak, it would test all 2,500 hospital employees, according to a statement from Kitsap Public Health. The statement said that on Tuesday volunteers helped administer more than 850 tests to St. Michael employees — and testing is expected to continue throughout the week.
Kitsap Public Health will also develop an “incident command structure” to coordinate the outbreak response and streamline data between the health district and the hospital, the statement said.
“The outbreak at St. Michael is hugely concerning for our community and all of us at Kitsap Public Health,” Morrow said in the Wednesday statement. “We are marshaling every resource at our disposal to prevent additional illness and protect public health.”
Morrow continued, “In addition to our contact tracing work, we have activated and are coordinating a comprehensive, multiagency response to identify the full extent of the outbreak and control its spread. We are confident that continued, aggressive action will successfully resolve this situation and help prevent future cases.”
Kitsap Public Health has also sent a new set of public health recommendations to St. Michael, which include ways to prevent additional infections and strengthen communication with the public and the health district.
An infection control expert from the Washington State Department of Health who visited the hospital Tuesday is also planning to issue additional guidance, the statement said.
The hospital notified Kitsap Public Health of its first case — in an employee — on Aug. 4. On Aug. 13, five more cases were connected with one unit at St. Michael, and Kitsap Public Health declared an outbreak the next day.
The three units where staff and patients tested positive for COVID-19 are still housing patients already admitted, but new patients aren’t being taken in, said Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer for CHI Franciscan.
“Our hearts go out to the essential front-line workers, patients, and their families who have been directly impacted … We ask that all community members continue to take steps to protect their health and slow the spread of the virus so we can prevent future outbreaks,” Morrow said in the statement.
Seattle Times staff reported Ryan Blethen contributed to this story. Information from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.