Norport VA officials said seven staff members and 11 veterans...

Norport VA officials said seven staff members and 11 veterans contracted the coronavirus in a medical ward of the facility serving veterans. Credit: Johnny Milano

Seven staff members and 11 veterans contracted COVID-19 last month in a medical ward of the Northport VA Medical Center, a spokesman confirmed.

VA officials identified the outbreak Feb. 24 after two veterans who had been admitted tested positive for the virus, said Chad Cooper, a VA public affairs officer. The other positive cases were identified through contact tracing.

Some of the affected veterans had been released from the hospital when they were diagnosed. Three were readmitted because of their symptoms but no patient has died as a result of the outbreak, the hospital said.

The Northport VA is part of a network of medical facilities under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Cooper said it was unclear how the infections occurred, but that the VA’s response protocols — cleaning, tracing and testing — had worked.

"This could have, potentially, been a lot larger," he said. Isolated outbreaks are "going to be the new norm," he said. "These positive cases are going to continue to occur. … We have strict protocols to identify, control and mitigate risks."

As of early this week, the VA had 13 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, including those in the outbreak, he said.

Meanwhile, VA staffers are continuing to vaccinate eligible veterans by appointment and at walk-in clinics. The next walk-in clinic is scheduled March 8 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or until supplies run out.

Only veterans with an active VA account, over 65, who have been treated at the VA or one of its clinics in the last two years, are eligible.

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