Senior living communities in Washington state and Maryland are taking precautions after people living in or visiting their communities tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The news about an Era Living community in Seattle came the same day that the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living canceled its spring conference and the Senate Special Committee on Aging asked the Department of Health and Human Services to protect older adults from the virus.

Era said the company learned Friday that a resident of its Ida Culver House Ravenna, an independent living and assisted living community, had tested positive for COVID-19.

“This resident has been in the hospital since Wednesday, March 4, and will remain in quarantine off-site for a minimum of 14 days,” the company said in an announcement on its website.

“We are vigilantly working with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and local public health officials, residents, and staff to prevent this from leading to an outbreak in our retirement communities and beyond,” Era said. The company manages eight senior living communities in the Seattle area.

The organization said that, among other steps, it is screening Ida Culver residents twice a day; is cleaning common area surfaces twice a day (doubling normal procedures); has canceled all activities; is screening essential visitors, including third-party caregivers and other vendors; is restricting access by nonessential visitors; is delivering meals to resident apartments instead of serving meals in the dining room; and is asking high-risk staff members to stay home.

The virus has hit Washington state the hardest in the U.S. Public Health – Seattle & King County said Saturday that of 17 COVID-19-related deaths reported to the department, 16 are associated with Life Care Center of Kirkland, a skilled nursing facility that was the site of the first reported long-term care-related death in the U.S. due to the virus.

Meanwhile, executives at The Village at Rockville–A National Lutheran Community in Rockville, MD, said they were notified Saturday by the Maryland Department of Health that a resident of the state who tested positive for COVID-19 had attended a Feb. 28 public event at the continuing care retirement community. Government officials said the infected person, reportedly a woman who had taken a Nile River cruise, could have come in contact with 70 to 100 people while participating in a traditional Jewish mourning ceremony at the CCRC.

“The MDH has expressed that the risk of potential exposure during this event was low. However, taking the best practice in precaution, The Village at Rockville is working closely with the MDH to follow their recommended procedures for monitoring conditions of residents and team members who attended the event through March 14, 2020,” the CCRC said in a press release issued Saturday. “There are no residents or team members at The Village at Rockville who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, nor are any exhibiting symptoms of the virus.”

The CCRC said it has postponed all gatherings and public events until March 14. Visiting hours also will be restricted to the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

AHCA / NCAL cancels conference, Senators send letter to HHS

Elsewhere, AHCA / NCAL announced Friday that it was canceling its 2020 Quality Summit and Independent Owner Conference that was to be held this week in Grapevine, TX. Approximately 500 attendees were expected.

“Traveling across the country to attend a conference could slightly increase the risk that professionals who work in our long-term care centers every day may become infected,” the organizations said in an announcement. “We know that the frail and elderly residents in our care are the most vulnerable to this virus, and we need to do everything we can to minimize every risk, no matter how small.”

Also Friday, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Aging Committee, and 10 other members of the body, sent a letter to HHS Sec. Alex Azar asking him to take action to protect older adults from the virus.

“In recognition of age and health conditions affecting susceptibility, it is important that the department consider the unique health needs of older Americans in all aspects of the domestic response, from hospital preparedness to the impact of drug shortages to vaccine development,” they wrote. The senators referenced a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that the COVID-19 fatality rate was almost 15% in people aged 80 or more years and 8% in those aged 70 to 79 years compared with a fatality rate of 2.3% in the general patient population.

Number of cases, deaths rising

Late Friday, Florida officials announced two deaths from the virus, the first ones reported outside of the West Coast.

“We are stressing to folks that if you look at how this virus impacts people, the folks who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions are at much greater risk to have serious complications. So we’ve been working hard with our hospitals and our nursing homes, assisted living facilities,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday at a briefing in Fort Lauderdale with Vice President Mike Pence, cruise line executives and port directors.

As of Sunday night, with U.S. cases topping 500 across 33 states, and with more than 20 U.S. deaths from the virus, according to media reports, officials in at least eight states — California, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Oregon Utah and Washington — had declared states of emergency.