Oregon pandemic deaths include 32 people from senior care homes

State officials tallied 50 coronavirus cases – including nine deaths – associated with one Portland nursing home, Healthcare at Foster Creek. (Dave Killen / The Oregonian/Oregonlive)

At least 32 people associated with Oregon senior care homes have died from the new coronavirus – making up the majority of the state’s death toll from the disease, according a state list released Tuesday.

The deaths span 13 nursing, assisted living and independent living homes in six counties and include the cluster at the Southeast Portland nursing home Healthcare at Foster Creek.

That home has had nine deaths and 50 coronavirus cases total, according to the new report, the most of any other facility. The state isn’t counting the death of a 10th resident at Foster Creek who was identified by employees and the company as a presumed positive case.

The Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services — the two state agencies responsible for the well-being of Oregon’s elderly residents — partnered last week to produce the reports and will release the numbers weekly from now on. The data comes after weeks of requests for the information from The Oregonian/OregonLive.

The agreement, signed one month after Oregon’s first coronavirus cases in a nursing home, is intended to help the Department of Human Services monitor the facilities it licenses for outbreaks and “respond appropriately,” according to a copy of the document, obtained through a public records request.

The agency has for weeks declined to provide the newsroom with facility-by-facility case counts, in part because that information came from the places themselves and wasn’t validated by public health experts.

The state’s numbers don’t reflect the full caseload across Oregon’s senior care homes because the Oregon Health Authority hasn’t provided details for care homes with fewer than three cases and no deaths.

Tuesday’s report also doesn’t break down cases and deaths by residents versus employees, though other reports and reporting by the newsroom indicates most of the people who have died are residents.

Besides Foster Creek, three senior communities have had more than one COVID-19 fatality – the Astor House at Springbrook Oaks retirement complex in Newberg, with six deaths; the state veterans nursing home in Lebanon, with four; Laurelhurst Village nursing home in Southeast Portland, also with four.

At least 225 people associated with senior care homes have fallen ill with the coronavirus at 17 facilities with three or more cases or one or more deaths, the state numbers show. The state didn’t provide numbers for one of those facilities, an adult foster home.

The state also provided the dates when each community on the list recorded its first confirmed case, revealing a swift spread of the disease.

The nursing home epidemic began March 11, with two confirmed cases at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home. The outbreak paused for about a week, with no cases identified in new facilities, until a person associated with a Marion County nursing home was diagnosed March 20.

Over the two weeks that followed, 13 more senior care homes joined the list.

The Lebanon veterans home recorded the first death. One of the first residents at the home to test positive died March 22.

This story is published as part of a collaborative of news organizations across Oregon sharing stories in the public interest. The Malheur Enterprise is part of the collaborative.