March 19, 2020

CDC Investigates COVID-19 Hotspot Centered on Wash. Long-Term Care Facility

Yesterday, CDC released the findings of its investigation of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak cluster centered around a residential long-term care facility in King County, Washington state. CDC’s investigation was conducted jointly with the public health department of Seattle and King County.

Investigators found 129 cases of COVID-19 associated with the facility, with the first reported on Feb. 27, 2020, in a resident aged 73, who also had a history of diabetes, heart failure, and kidney disease. The patient tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, and passed away on March 2. In all, 23 people associated with the facility died of COVID-19, all but one of them residents. As of March 9, at least eight other King County nursing and assisted living facilities had reported one or more cases of COVID-19.

The CDC report indicates that 34 staff at the facility were infected. Many staff worked while sick, likely contributing to the spread of the disease. No deaths have occurred among staff. Fourteen visitors also became sick, one fatally.

According to CDC, these findings suggest that once the virus has been introduced in a nursing home setting it may result in high attack rates among residents, staff, and visitors. Residents are particularly vulnerable to the disease, due to their age and likelihood of having additional underlying health issues, and their concentration in one facility.

CDC recommends preventing staff with COVID-19 symptoms from working at nursing facilities, restricting visitors, and strengthening infection prevention control guidance and adherence. More information can be found in CDC’s report.

Clinical Trial Begins for COVID Vaccine

The National Institutes of Health announced the beginning of a clinical trial of a vaccine for COVID-19. The vaccine, called mRNA-1273, targets the spikes on the surface of the coronavirus that allow it to attach to human cells. The trial will involve 45 adult volunteers in the Seattle area, which is the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. As of March 18, approximately half of Washington state’s nearly 1,200 cases of COVID-19 have occurred in King County, where Seattle is located.

Study Describes Stability of COVID-19 Virus

A study by scientists from NIH, CDC, UCLA, and Princeton University found that the virus that causes COVID-19 is detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for up to two to three days. The study is described in a letter to the editor published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The results were similar to those of the genetically similar virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The SARS virus was eradicated by contact tracing and case isolation. According to an NIH press release, the study supports the theory that people with no symptoms are transmitting the COVID-19 virus.