‘Hugely concerning’ COVID outbreak in Bremerton hospital now totals 60 cases

Aug 31, 2020, 6:54 AM | Updated: 12:00 pm
hospital, covid, St. Michael...
Aster Mekonen carries a trash bag during her cleaning shift at Harborview Medical Center on August 20, 2020 in Seattle. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

An outbreak at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton now totals 60 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as local health officials look for solutions.

Workers say St. Michael Medical Center outbreak could have been prevented

According to the Kitsap County Health District, over 2,000 employees have been tested for the virus, 39 of which have come up positive. Twenty-one patients have also tested positive.

“The outbreak at St. Michael is hugely concerning for our community and all of us at Kitsap Public Health,” said Kitsap Public Health District (KPHD) Officer Dr. Gib Morrow. “We are marshaling every resource at our disposal to prevent additional illness and protect public health.”

The outbreak dates back to Aug. 4, when KPHD was notified that a St. Michael employee had tested positive for COVID-19. Roughly a week later, five COVID cases had been linked to a single unit within the hospital. On Aug. 14, KPHD officially declared an outbreak and convened a meeting with the hospital’s leadership.

In the midst of that, Kitsap Public Health says it enacted a “comprehensive, multi-agency response to identify the full extent of the outbreak and control its spread.”

St. Michael employees have spoken previously about how they believe the outbreak might have been preventable, claiming that it’s been poorly managed by the medical center, the state health department, and KPHD.

New metric, method updates for state’s COVID-19 dashboards

“We do not believe that CHI Franciscan, DOH, or Kitsap Public Health have been doing enough to protect workers and patients,” said Sarah Cherin with UFCW Local 21, a food and commercial workers union that had filed more than one complaint about a lack of personal protective equipment in the hospital.

“We know Aug. 10, workers had direct contact with a patient and that the workers were not notified,” added Fay Gunther, another union representative. “This is just unacceptable that workers are not notified when they’re exposed.”

A spokesperson for the medical center says protective equipment is in high demand worldwide, but right now there is enough PPE at St. Michael and it is provided to all employees.

The state health department says it is evaluating the workers’ complaints.

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‘Hugely concerning’ COVID outbreak in Bremerton hospital now totals 60 cases