Second patient has coronavirus at Western State Hospital

Second patient has coronavirus at Western State Hospital
FILE - This photo taken Nov. 18, 2015, shows a sign near the main entrance of Western State Hospital, the largest psychiatric hospital in the state, in Lakewood, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — A second patient at Washington state’s largest psychiatric hospital has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The Western State Hospital patient was on a different ward than the one who tested positive last week, officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a release Saturday. Both patients were being treated at a Pierce County hospital.

Washington state leads the nation in coronavirus deaths with at least 95 fatalities and almost 2,000 positive cases.

Content Continues Below

Officials also reported last week that a hospital employee had the disease and was recovering at home.

After those reports, union hospital workers sent a letter to officials demanding that all employees who had contact with the sick patients and worker be tested for COVID-19. But state officials are asking workers to “self-screen” for symptoms instead and asked them to stay home if they have symptoms.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

The hospital set up screening stations at three entrances on Friday and require workers to answer a list of questions about their health and have their temperatures taken before being allowed inside.

Initially, they set up tents outside the entrances where the screenings would take place, but workers objected, saying the thermometers they planned to use don't work in cold temperatures, which could result in false negatives. After The Associated Press reported those concerns, the official plan released Friday said the actual screenings would take place inside, and the tents would be used for workers waiting to enter in case it rains.

Workers also object to using hospital nurses to do the screening. The screeners have not been trained to do the testing, they said, and they don't have the personal protective equipment for the task.

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.