Cheney Free Press -

'Our population is so vulnerable'

Cheney Care Center takes steps to guard against COVID-19 virus


Last updated 3/19/2020 at 10:50am


Managing Editor

CHENEY – Things are quiet at Cheney Care Center, quieter than normal. For Executive Director Keith Fauerso, quiet is good.

Center officials have watched as the novel coronavirus and the disease it carries, COVID-19, spread eastward from the Seattle-area and finally landed in Eastern Washington and Spokane County. As those developments took place, directives began being issued from state and federal officials designed specifically for facilities such as the Care Center — the first coming March 13.

“As of Friday, we’re in total lockdown,” Fauerso said of the facility and its 130 residents, all of whom are in a population vulnerable to the disease.

According to state Department of Health statistics updated March 17, there have been 1,012 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington, with 52 deaths, 19 of which stem from the outbreak at the Life Care Center in Kirkland that began in late February. A March 17 story in the Washington Post stated that as of March 16, 30 of the 43 remaining residents and 46 of the home’s 180 employees had tested positive for the disease.

Department of Health statistics indicate that of the 1,012 confirmed cases, 17 percent were in individuals aged 70-79 and 80 and above, with 15 percent in individuals 60-69 and 16 percent in those 50-59. Women accounted for 51 percent of the cases, with men 46 percent and 3 percent unknown.

Besides locking down the facility, Cheney Care Center staff has instituted other measures to guard its population against the disease. Staff are screened every time they come on duty, answering a series of questions regarding disease symptoms and having their temperature taken. Fauerso said this also applies to vendors delivering needed supplies.

“We’ve had no cases or symptoms,” Fauerso said. “No staff has tested positive.”

The state has also discontinued regulatory surveys of nursing care facilities in order to restrict staff contact.

The center has served as a Meals on Wheels Silver Café location for senior meals, but those have been discontinued indefinitely. Fauerso said they can link local seniors who have frequented those meals with officials at Meals on Wheels for delivery options.

All Care Center activities have been discontinued and residents are pretty much consigned to their rooms. Fauerso said they are providing individual activity options to help alleviate any boredom.

The center is also providing free meals to its on-duty staff so they won’t have to leave the campus to eat. The recent closure of K-12 schools statewide has placed a burden on some of those staff members, Fauerso said.

Fauerso said the center’s biggest need right now is face masks. The center is almost out of these.

“We have a supplier but they had a run on those supplies,” Fauerso said. “We hope to have some more by April 1. All of our other supplies like cleaning products and hand sanitizers are fine.

Fauerso foresees the current pandemic lasting quite a bit longer, noting that the U.S. is about 45-50 days behind where China — where COVID-19 originated — is now with confirmed cases. With all the center has done so far to guard against the disease’s spread, Fauerso thinks it could be just a matter of time before something happens.

“I don’t know that we’re going to dodge this bullet,” he said. “Our population is so vulnerable.”

John McCallum can be reached at


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