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, file)

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, file)

Washington psychiatric hospital sees spike in COVID-19 cases

Officials are scrambling to find nurses to work on the COVID-19 ward and have offered overtime pay.

By Martha Bellisle / Associated Press

SEATTLE — More than 30 patients and staff at Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital are suffering from coronavirus — the biggest spike in cases to date — and more than 150 have tested positive since the virus first hit the facility in March.

Ten Western State Hospital patients on a single ward got sick within a few days of each other after a nurse tested positive about a week ago. The patients ranged in age of 62 to 82 and were moved to the hospital’s special COVID-19 ward so they’re kept away from other patients.

Twelve workers tested positive within a three-day span last week, hospital officials said. Most were on the same ward as the patient spike.

“With this news, I am pleading with all of us to hold each other accountable for wearing the correct masks, and wearing them over both your mouth and nose,” hospital CEO Dave Holt told staff in an email. “If a co-worker is not following the masking protocol, please stop them and ask them to mask to protect our patients and staff.”

Officials are scrambling to find nursing staff to work on the COVID-19 ward and have offered overtime pay, according to a Holt email.

There’s also been a COVID-19 spike at several of the state’s residential habilitation centers, with 26 patients and 63 staff testing positive at the Fircrest School, which provides support to about 200 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in a home setting.

Twenty patients and 40 workers have also seen positive tests at the Yakima Valley School, while 14 patients and 67 staff at the Lakeland School have caught the virus.

The new spike in cases reflects the increase being seen across the country, said Kelly Von Holtz, spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services, which runs all of these facilities.

“DSHS continues to respond in real time to the virus and works to prevent the spread,” she said.

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