Local coronavirus cases outpacing neighboring counties

Steve Lyon

The number of coronavirus cases continues to go up in Weiser and Washington County and at a quicker pace than surrounding counties.
 As of Monday night, Washington County was second only to Canyon County among the six counties that make up Southwest District Health in the number of cases with 51 confirmed and six probable for a total of 57.
 Four confirmed cases of coronavirus were recently reported at The Cottages assisted-living facility in Weiser among employees and/or residents by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
 The IDHW only recently began reporting confirmed coronavirus cases at assisted-living centers in the state. They were kept private until the Idaho Statesman threatened legal action to get the state health agency to provide information.
 For the past two weeks, the IDHW has provided the number of confirmed cases and the names of assisted-living centers across the state.
 The cases at The Cottages in Weiser were listed in the weekly report ending June 12, but were not in the weekly report ending June 5.
 Nikole Zogg, director of Southwest District Health, said the four cases at The Cottages were connected to the cluster of cases that were reported in mid-May involving employees at Fry Foods in Weiser.
 All of the positive cases at The Cottages are asymptomatic and under monitoring. Confirmed cases have been isolated from those who have tested negative, she said.
 Fry Foods had what the Southwest District Health described as a cluster of cases in mid-May that evenually numbered more than a dozen employees and their family members and temporarily closed the Weiser plant.
 Of those in the Fry Foods cluster, three individuals were hospitalized but not in Weiser. As of June 12, two have been discharged and one is still recovering at an unnamed hospital, Zogg said.
 Asked about the coronavirus cases at The Cottages, CEO Mark Maxfield said officials learned recently that some staff members had been exposed to a family member who had tested positive for COVID-19. The employees were removed and will not return until cleared by the local health department.
 On June 2, everyone who works or resides at The Cottages, or who may have had a chance to come in contact with potentially exposed individuals, was tested, he said.
 Anyone who was potentially exposed has been notified. All of the individuals who tested positive have shown no symptoms, Maxfield said.
 “We as a company have done everything within our power to follow all recommendations from CDC to mitigate the risk to our residents. It is important to know that even if everything is done perfectly, the risk of contraction is still ever present as we have been battling this national pandemic industry-wide for about four months,” he said in an email to the Weiser Signal American.
 He said the safety of staff and residents is extremely important to The Cottages and detailed the precautions that have been put in place since COVID-19 first appeared in the state in March.
 At the beginning of March, the company convened a coronavirus task force comprised of staff from various departments, including infection prevention specialists, to review existing policies and procedures related to infectious diseases, he said.
 As early as March 12 the campus was closed to all visitors and non-essential personnel.  Beginning March 14, screening began for all staff and essential visitors for symptoms, including the presence of elevated temperature, labored breathing, coughing, and started travel inquiries. This was done every shift for all staff and essential visitors. 
 On March 16, The Cottages implemented social distancing within the homes to include no communal dining or activities, and all admissions were halted. 
 These measures and others have remained in place since they were implemented and we continue to do full symptom screening including pulse oximetry every four hours for all residents in the Weiser community, Maxfield said.
 “All of us at The Cottages take this extremely seriously and are doing our absolute best to minimize the spread of this disease,” Maxfield said.
 “We further want the community of Weiser to know that all the hard-working caregivers at the Weiser Cottages and all health care facilities across the nation are heroes and are working harder than ever during a scary and uncertain time because they love their residents.”
 The public health agency maintains a coronavirus call center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number is 208-455-5411.

Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

Connect with Us