More Than a Dozen COVID-19 Cases at Psychiatric Hospital

Martha Bellisle

March 31, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's  Coronavirus Resource Center.

SEATTLE (AP) — At least 12 workers and four patients at Washington state's largest psychiatric hospital have tested positive for the new coronavirus and one patient has died from the disease, officials said Monday.

The 85-year-old Western State Hospital patient tested positive on March 21 and died last Thursday, the Washington Department of Social and Health Services told The Associated Press. The other patient who tested positive has since fully recovered, the agency said.


"We are profoundly sorry to learn that our patient passed; our staff cares deeply about our patients and losses like this are always difficult," said Sean Murphy, DSHS Assistant Secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of our patient. We will continue to make the health and safety of our patients and staff a priority during this unprecedented time."

The hospital is continuously monitoring all patients for COVID-19 symptoms and is limiting movement of patients on wards as a precaution, they said.

Three workers at three of the agency's facilities have also tested positive, officials said. One staff member at Eastern State Hospital, Child Study and Treatment Center and the Fircrest School, a residential center that cares for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, have COVID-19.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in several weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Western state workers have been critical of the administration's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

They've sought personal protective equipment like masks when working with sick patients and said the newly implemented screening process for staff created unsafe conditions by forcing workers to stand in line while waiting to fill out a questioner and have their temperature taken.

"The spread of the virus can be attributed to not isolating personnel to specific wards," said Nursing Supervisor Paul Vilja. Officials should have isolated its geriatric wards from the rest of the hospital to protect patients and staff, he said.

Kelly Von Holtz, a DSHS spokesperson, said the agency continues to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department.

The 850-bed Lakewood facility has been the target of state and federal investigations for safety violations in recent years. It lost its accreditation and federal funding from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services after it continually failed health and safety inspections.