In this April 22 photo, a sign at Western State Hospital in Lakewood directs visitors and non-hospital employees to check in at another building where health screening is done. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In this April 22 photo, a sign at Western State Hospital in Lakewood directs visitors and non-hospital employees to check in at another building where health screening is done. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Bacteria found in water at Washington psychiatric hospital

No one can take showers or even wash their hands.

By Martha Bellisle / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Bacteria found in the water at Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital means no one can take showers or wash hands, at a time when COVID-19 is on the rise.

At least 33 workers and eight staff have tested positive for the virus at Western State Hospital, and on Thursday officials notified staff that test results found E coli in the facility’s water.

“During a routine monthly testing, two buildings (not the entire water system) tested positive for bacteria,” said Kelly Von Holtz, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services.

“One building tested positive for coliform bacteria and a second building tested positive for E. coli — the building that tested positive for coliform bacteria was retested and tested negative,” she said. “Neither of these buildings are patient buildings. One is a maintenance building and the other is a building where activities are held.”

There were no reports of illness from the water, she said

Out of an abundance of caution, a boil-water notice was issued and the state Department of Health was expected to visit the hospital on Friday to find the cause of the outbreak.

“They will also determine the exact levels of bacteria in the water and take additional water samples throughout the hospital to see if Building 32 is the sole source of the contamination,” hospital CEO David Holt said in an announcement to staff.

Staff will be supplying patients with more hand sanitizer as they shut down the ice machines, water fountains and sinks, Holt said.

The kitchen will boil water and 10 cases of bottled water were delivered to each ward, he said. They plan to provide enough to last through the weekend.

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