Highland care center on Samish Way is epicenter 

  BELLINGHAM — The Whatcom County Health Department reported on Tuesday, Sept. 29, that it had identified 39 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and six associated deaths, linked to Highland Health and Rehabilitation, 2400 Samish Way.

  Those who died were:

  • A woman age 100-109

  • A man age 100-109

  • A woman in her 90s

  • A man in his 90s

  • A man in his 90s

  • A man in his 70s

  The outbreak at the care facility involves 23 residents and 16 staff members, all of whom tested positive. The health department has been on the outbreak since it was first known on Sept. 18.

  According to a Whatcom County Health Department press release, the facility is working with the WCHD to test and monitor staff and residents, to isolate those affected by the coronavirus, and quarantine anyone else exposed. Additional protocols are in place to prevent additional infections, including cohosting residents.

  “We are working closely with Highland staff to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the facility,” said Cindy Hollinsworth, manager of communicable disease and epidemiology at the health department. “They’ve been very responsive. But even when everything’s running well, disease transmission is still possible, especially given the current rate of infection in the general population and the potential for individuals to be asymptomatic.”

  Amy Cloud, public information officer with Whatcom Unified Command, said the outbreak does not change the county’s overall strategy or priorities related to COVID-19.

  “From the beginning, before COVID-19 arrived in Whatcom County, the health department strategy, in partnership with Whatcom Unified Command, has been to prevent and mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” Cloud said in an email. “The Whatcom County Health Department works with the Washington State Department of Health to provide testing and infection prevention protocols to long-term care (LTC) facilities. The health department has assigned staff who work with LTC facilities for both prevention and outbreak response.”

  Cloud said there has been a change in the total number of cases confirmed in association with the Highland outbreak. More information may be provided at a news conference soon.