Five residents at Ketchikan’s Pioneer Home die from COVID-19, state reports

A beige and clay-colored building.
The Pioneer Home in Ketchikan. In August 2021, five residents died in a COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by KRBD)

Five residents at Ketchikan’s Pioneer Home died from COVID-19 during an outbreak at the assisted-living home this past week, according to the state health department.

Health and Social Services spokesperson Clinton Bennett said in an email that a total of 12 residents and five staff have tested positive for COVID-19 this month, and four residents were hospitalized. He says the “majority” of cases are no longer active.

Bennett declined to say how many of the five people who died had been fully vaccinated, citing privacy concerns. He said the overall vaccination rate for residents and staff is above 90%. But even with that high vaccination rate, Bennett said, Pioneer Home residents are “extra vulnerable and susceptible to the virus.”

The state-run assisted living home is licensed for 45 beds, according to a 2018 advisory board report.

State health officials wouldn’t address the recent deaths during a regular call to reporters Thursday.

But official figures show that as of August 14, seven fully vaccinated people across the state have died of COVID-19 this year. So-called “vaccine breakthrough” deaths made up roughly 6% of the state’s 110 total fatalities in 2021. Vaccine breakthrough cases amounted to roughly 8% of the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations during that period.

A total of eight people have died from COVID-19 in Ketchikan as of Wednesday, according to the community’s pandemic dashboard.

Bennett said that throughout the pandemic, Pioneer Homes have been “extra careful mitigating this virus in hopes of keeping residents and staff as safe and healthy as possible.”

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