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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Report: Severe Negligence Fueled COVID Outbreak At Whitefish Care Facility

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A federal report from early September says severe negligence at a Whitefish long-term care facility directly contributed to a COVID-19 outbreak. At the time of the findings, four residents had died from the virus.

The report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says Whitefish Care & Rehabilitation’s "noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death."

The report found that staff incorrectly wore personal protective equipment and failed to socially distance residents. As of Aug. 31, federal officials say 43 of the 52 residents at the care center were confirmed or presumed to be infected with COVID-19. 

Reid Crickmore, the administrator at Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation says a total of 13 people have now died at the facility from the virus. 

He says the facility was following federal coronavirus guidelines, but accepts the findings of the report, including a failure to isolate residents presumed positive for COVID-19.

"We had an isolated COVID wing and we didn’t want to put someone in there if they hadn’t tested positive for COVID. They didn’t like that we were doing that. Fair enough. We took that criticism and we fixed that process.”

Crickmore says the facility has been COVID-free for three weeks and says a follow-up infection control survey found the facility is now in full compliance. That report has not yet been made public.

"We take full responsibility for things that have happened. We don’t shy away from that, but we also want them to know that we’re not going to let that happen again."

According to the state health data, nearly 90 long-term care and assisted living facilities across Montana have reported cases of COVID-19. State health officials say residents at those centers are at high risk for infection, serious illness and death from the virus. 

Aaron Bolton is Montana Public Radio's Flathead Valley reporter.
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