At Least 53 COVID-19 Cases Associated With Chehalis Rehab Facility Outbreak

Outbreak: Isolation Unit Offered, But Some Sick Patients Walked Out


Fifty-three people are suspected of having COVID-19 at a Chehalis rehab facility, the latest local outbreak of the disease amid what Lewis County’s public health director is calling an “alarming” increase in infections.

On Friday, anonymous sources contacted The Chronicle and KIRO 7 about the outbreak at American Behavioral Health Systems’ (ABHS) facility. On Saturday, ABHS confirmed the outbreak in their 130-patient, all-male addiction treatment facility.

The release stated that “all patients who tested positive for COVID have been isolated and are continuing their treatment, with medical supervision, in our special COVID-19 Isolation Unit.”

But ABHS Chief Operating Officer Tony Prentice told The Chronicle Monday that some sick patients have simply walked out.

“We’re not a jail,” Prentice said. “We do everything in our power to keep them, but if someone walks out the door, I can’t physically restrain them … they get rides from their people and they go home.”

Public health and local law enforcement have been notified in those cases, Prentice said. Approximately 35 patients at the facility are experiencing homelessness, and some clients are mandated by the courts to undergo treatment.

It’s the biggest outbreak the facility has experienced since last September, when The Chronicle reported that 23 clients contracted COVID-19. Outbreaks among private facilities are not required to be reported out to the public.

According to Prentice, the first positive case of the current outbreak was caught on Aug. 4. The patient was isolated, and their roommates tested negative. The day after, all patients were screened using rapid response tests, which resulted in 53 suspected cases. The Sunday prior, the facility was open to visitors.

“We didn’t have a lot of visitors, and we did test the visitors too. But you know, they could’ve carried it,” Prentice said. “I’m guessing the most likely thing that’s happening is it’s coming from staff.”

So far, two individuals have been sent to the hospital. Their temperatures have since declined, and they are back at ABHS, according to Prentice.

ABHS is working to re-test all faculty, patients and staff to confirm the rapid response test results, although those numbers aren’t expected until Tuesday, after The Chronicle’s print deadline.

“Many of the patients that seek treatment at ABHS are homeless and have no place to go,” the release said. “Rather than discharging positive COVID patients who are homeless, we have developed the COVID Isolation Unit to mitigate the spread of COVID in the facility. By allowing the COVID positive individual to remain in treatment we help prevent them from exposing the community to the virus.”

ABHS offers patients the Johnson and Johnson vaccine on a weekly basis, although Prentice said uptake has been underwhelming. A vaccine mandate for all staff is currently being discussed, he said.

Local public health officials are aiding in the response to the outbreak. It’s at least the second major outbreak in the county this month, after infections at a major UNFI grocery distribution center in Centralia resulted in at least 159 cases, most of which stretched across county lines. The facility has since reopened.

Public Health Director JP Anderson Monday warned that the delta variant is causing the local surge. Already, preliminary state data show infections reaching the same level seen during this spring’s fourth wave.

“It’s a very very risky time right now,” he added.