St. Joseph Medical Center COVID-19 Community Update
Updated: November 10, 2020
Statement from St. Joseph Medical Center
“COVID-19 is significantly spiking in Pierce County and health care facilities are not immune to community spread. The first line of defense to protect our hospitals starts in the community with masks, social distancing, and quarantining if you have COVID-19. Hospital screenings, universal masking, and PPE are our additional lines of defense at the hospital. It will take all of us, working together, to do our part and put up every barrier possible to curb the spread of this virus,” said St. Joseph Medical Center Chief Operating Officer, Timothy O’Haver.
Update on cases
We are committed to keeping our employees and patients safe and to safely delivering high-quality, life-saving care to our community. CHI Franciscan continues to work with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) to investigate cases of COVID-19 at St. Joseph Medical Center.
In the initial response to the outbreak on the seventh floor, a total of 1,100 staff were tested, along with all of the patients on the seventh floor. A total of 11 employees and 4 patients were identified as positive related to the outbreak. No additional staff or patients have tested positive since the first round of testing related to this incident. On November 9, the seventh floor reopened and all staff who have 2 negative test results were cleared to return to work.
Based on TPCHD’s COVID-19 requirements, we expanded our surveillance testing to the entire hospital last week. As of November 9, 3,000 tests have been completed. Expanded surveillance testing and community testing has uncovered a total of 12 employees who have tested positive as a result of community spread. Contact tracing has found that these cases are not related to the initial outbreak through known exposure to positive staff or patients.
These results indicate that there is no further spread from the cases originating on the seventh floor.
Expanded testing efforts
Based on the latest guidance from TPCHD, St. Joseph Medical Center expanded surveillance testing on November 3 to personnel throughout the hospital, and current patients who had not been tested within the past 48 hours. This increased surveillance testing effort was out of an abundance of caution to help minimize any potential spread.
The majority of employee surveillance testing completed on November 9. It included providers, employees, and contracted staff who were present at St. Joseph Medical Center on or after Oct. 16, including all floors of the South Pavilion and the Tower, all hospital-based outpatient clinics, and Walters Same Day Surgery Center.
All patients and employees are currently being notified of the testing efforts, and test results will be communicated as quickly as possible. Notification for any positive results, if received, will be the highest priority.
This type of broad spectrum testing is called “surveillance testing” and is recommended by the health department in and out of various healthcare settings. With this type of testing, there is no known exposure, so employees are allowed to continue working per health department directives. We have investigated each positive patient and staff member to identify any staff who may have been exposed and must leave work per CDC guidelines.
CDC guidance, testing policy, and seeking care when you need it
As community prevalence is now increasing we are implementing increased visitor restrictions throughout St. Joseph Medical Center, with a few exceptions for beginning of life and end of life. Some currently scheduled in-patient procedures may be postponed if it is medically safe to do so. Click here to read our current visitor, patient, and vendor entrance policy.
As standard protocol, all patients are tested prior to being admitted to the hospital, and all employees and visitors are screened upon entering the facility. All of the patients in this case tested negative initially, then later tested positive. St. Joseph Medical Center notified and tested staff and patients on the seventh floor as soon as the first cases were confirmed. Rapid tests are being deployed at the hospital for patients to expedite results when possible.
St. Joseph Medical Center is following all public health recommendations, including several enhanced safety and PPE measures across the CHI Franciscan system to limit potential spread.
Patients should not delay seeking care if they are facing emergencies, such as symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, or injuries like broken bones. We urge the community to continue to follow public health guidance. The best way to reduce infections and stay healthy is to wear a mask while in public and in any health care setting and remain six feet away from others.