Flathead Health Officials Confirm Four More Deaths Tied to Long-Term Care Facility

As the outbreak at a Whitefish facility continues to grow, the fatality rate among those infected has climbed to 19%

By Tristan Scott
Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation in Whitefish on August 28, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Flathead County health officials on Friday announced four additional deaths associated with an outbreak of COVID-19 that continues to spread through a long-term care facility in Whitefish, where the fatality rate among infected residents has risen to 19%.

According to a press release from the Flathead City-County Health Department, which has continued its policy of not identifying the facility, the deaths bring the total number of deaths at the facility to 10 and the total number of fatalities in Flathead County to 13.

The Flathead Beacon confirmed that the facility at the center of the outbreak is the Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation Center and spoke with its director shortly after the first cases were reported last month.

Since then, the virus has continued to spread through the facility, infecting a majority of residents and leading to a rising fatality rate.

“This long-term care facility continues to be a major outbreak, with more than 75% of residents having tested positive for COVID-19 since August,” according to the press release.

The fatality rate due to COVID-19 infections as a result of the outbreak is 19% for the time period of Aug. 9 through Sept. 10, according to Tamalee St. James Robinson, the interim health officer at the health department.

“This means that 19% of positive COVID-19 residents in this facility have died from COVID-19 since August 9th,” she said.

“We extend our condolences to all the families and friends affected by these deaths,” St. James Robinson added.

The facility’s executive director, Reid Crickmore, told the Beacon last week that the outbreak stemmed from an asymptomatic staff member and that the spread continues despite efforts to contain it, including through “robust cleaning.”

Health officials consider an outbreak active until it generates no additional positive cases for a period of two weeks.

According to the county health department’s online tracker, Flathead County’s cumulative COVID-19 case total was 729 as of Sept. 10, with 128 of those cases marked active. There were also 527 people being monitored, which included all active cases and contacts, as well as 61 non-resident cases. There are six hospitalizations, five of which involve Flathead County residents.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.