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Health and Medicine

Coronavirus Outbreak In Medford Senior Care Facility Surges Past 100 Cases

A nurse researched information on a computer while wearing a face mask.
Irwan Iwe via unsplash.com

Coronavirus cases are surging in senior care facilities across Oregon. An outbreak at one facility in Medford is topping the charts.

As of Wednesday morning, Avamere at Three Fountains had 113 cases of coronavirus among its residents and staff. That’s dozens more than any similar facility in Oregon.

The facility with the second-most cases is Maryville Memory Care in Washington County with 74 cases, according to weekly state data released by the Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday.

Some of the information in OHA’s weekly report isn’t as up-to-date as local data from county governments. On Wednesday, Jackson County Public Health reported that the Three Fountains facility had 113 cases, while the state reported 95 cases. The county also listed Avamere’s Health Services of Rogue Valley facility as having 71 cases on Wednesday, while the state reported just 37.

The outbreak at Three Fountains started with just two staff members in early November, according to Jackson County medical director Jim Shames. He says faster testing could have helped prevent the spread.

“Our nationwide testing dilemma can be reflected in real-world situations exactly like this,” Shames says. “If they were able to know immediately that they had two or three people that were positive, they could have isolated them starting on day one.”

Earlier this month, a nurse at Three Fountains told JPR that some nurses and staff didn’t consistently follow COVID safety procedures. The source said some staff didn’t always wear their masks or didn’t wear them properly, and management didn’t strictly enforce the rules.

JPR isn’t naming the nurse to protect their job.

The nurse asked to remain anonymous because some nurses have faced retaliation as a result of reporting on their employers for not following proper coronavirus protocols. A spokesperson with the Oregon Nurses Association says some employers have told nurses that they’d be violating federal health privacy laws associated with HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

“Hospitals have threatened to fire or discipline nurses and staff who speak out about legitimate safety issues, and that has happened since the beginning of Oregon's COVID-19 outbreak,” Kevin Mealy says. “It is deeply concerning. These types of illegal gag orders prevent the public from hearing about safety issues that are going on inside the facility that could soon result in an outbreak that might affect folks outside the community as well.”

Avamere operates more than 40 facilities in Oregon, as well as about a dozen more in other states. Based on past inspections, Medicare has given Avamere’s Three Fountains location in Medford a “much below average” health inspection rating.

Avamere administrators didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.