Nursing home residents die. Link to Ritzville wedding unclear

Ten residents of Grant County have recently died of COVID-19, including seven in long-term care centers.

Some of the deaths are under investigation for their possible connection to a large November wedding near Ritzville, Wash., that turned into a COVID superspreader event.

Some of the wedding guests worked at long-term care centers and tested positive, but a conclusive link between the wedding and the deaths has not been determined, according to a Thursday evening statement from the Grant County Health District based in Moses Lake.

“Because staff in these facilities care for entire units, direct contact with associated patients is not known,” said the health district’s statement.

The seven deaths reported in long-term care homes do not include four more deaths at the homes for which death certificate reviews are pending.

Outbreaks at the three homes where residents died recently were announced by the Grant County Health District. It previously said an outbreak at an unnamed Moses Lake long-term care home and an Ephrata long-term care home had been linked to the Ritzville wedding.

Lake Ridge Center in Moses Lake had recent deaths of four residents with the death certificate of a fifth resident being reviewed. The deaths confirmed to be caused by complications of COVID include a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s and two men in their 90s.

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Lake Ridge Center in Moses Lake had recent deaths of four residents for complications of COVID-19.

Columbia Crest Center in Moses Lake has had recent deaths tied to COVID of two residents, a man in his 80s and a man in his 70s.

McKay Healthcare and Rehab Center in Soap Lake had a recent death of a man in his 80s due to COVID, with three more deaths under review.

On Nov. 20, the health district reported there had been nine deaths from the outbreak at McKay, with just five confirmed and others under review.

At the time Lakeview had 49 residents and 12 staff who had tested positive for COVID-19 and Columbia Crest had 25 residents and 22 staff who had tested positive.

November COVID deaths

Grant County has had 54 COVID-related deaths to date, with about half of those deaths in November alone.

“Your choice to gather with those outside your household could lead to additional cases of COVID-19 and even death,” the health district said Thursday. “Please protect those you love, by staying home.”

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The Ritzville-area wedding also has been blamed for a school outbreak in Grant County, and the Benton Franklin Health District said it was responsible for at least four Tri-Cities area cases.

There could be more, but many people reached by public health contract tracers deny they had contact with anyone outside their household or will not take the call, according to the Benton Franklin Health District.

On Nov. 7, more than 300 people attended a wedding in an airplane hanger in a rural area of Eastern Washington north of the Tri-Cities between Ritzville and Moses Lake, even though at the time wedding receptions were limited by state order to just 30 guests.

The reception turned into a superspreader event with more than 40 cases in Grant and Adams counties linked to it as of Nov. 17. Most of the cases were in Grant County and its health district has not returned more recent calls from the Herald requesting an update.

The other three deaths announced Thursday in Grant County, not associated with long-term care homes, included a Moses Lake woman in her 70s and a Moses Lake man in his 80s. A woman in her 90s, with no hometown given, also died.

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Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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