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23 Nursing Home Residents Have Now Died of COVID After Staff Attended Large Wedding in Washington

The death toll among Washington nursing home residents continues to rise following a 300-person wedding in November, which was attended by a number of staff members.

Grant County health officials announced on Friday that 23 residents of two separate long-term care facilities had died of COVID-19 following previously-reported coronavirus outbreaks. There are also 6 additional deaths that are still under review.

Although three staff members working at local nursing homes have “self-identified as attending the wedding and worked while contagious before they knew they were ill,” as those workers “care for all residents…it will not be known which individual cases or deaths are tied to the staff," health officials wrote in a news release.

“However the outbreak occurred at two facilities after the wedding occurred,” they added.

As of Friday, the outbreak at Lake Ridge Center included 12 staff, 65 residents and 15 deaths. At Columbia Crest Center, where staff members did not self-identify as having attended the "large wedding," the outbreak has included 21 staff, 27 residents, and 8 deaths.

One additional death has been reported at another facility in Ephrata, which “can be directly linked to an attendee of the wedding.” However, as there has only been one case there, health authorities are not releasing the name of the facility.

Officials have also determined that another outbreak at McKay Healthcare “is not associated with the wedding.”

“GCHD staff and I wish to extend our most sincere condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones and to our communities affected by these tragic deaths of our most vulnerable community members,” Dr. Alexander Brzezny, Grant County Health Officer, said in the press release. "We also extend our encouragement and sympathies to the many dedicated healthcare staff and community members who have joined us on this fight against our common enemy.”

The wedding ceremony was held on Nov. 7 at a private location in the rural town of Ritzville, authorities previously revealed. The event violated state guidelines, which limits wedding ceremonies to no more than 30 people. Since then, nearly 50 Grant County residents who confirmed they had attended the wedding have contracted the virus.

Authorities said that there was also an outbreak at the Moses Lake School District, and that 11 staff members had confirmed attending the ceremony. An additional staff member was also diagnosed with COVID-19 as a result, according to the press release.

Local health authorities are continuing to stress the importance of stay home in order to prevent infecting others, including the elderly, who are at a higher risk of severe coronavirus-related complications.

“We must continue to take measures to protect them from this disease. The best way to do that is by staying home as much as possible,” the press release cautioned. “Your choice to gather with those outside your household could lead to additional cases of COVID-19 and even death. Please protect those you love, by staying home.”

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