Months into the COVID-19 pandemic states are setting records for the most new cases and deaths in a week since the pandemic began.
Louisville’s Peace Hospital, one of the largest psychiatric facilities in the nation, is experiencing a severe outbreak of COVID-19 among children, teens and employees who work with them.
Some 21 youth housed in two units have tested positive for the coronavirus, and another 17 staffers are now out on quarantine after becoming infected or because of direct exposure. The hospital also temporarily shut down its outpatient program for youth, according to Kathy Turner, communications director for the Louisville health department.
Few details about the outbreak have been released. A staffer reached at the hospital Thursday night said Director Martha Mather was unavailable to comment.
Later Thursday night, University of Louisville Health, which owns the hospital, provided a statement saying the hospital is following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and confirmed the facility “is currently seeing a rise in cases among youth patients experiencing no symptoms.”
“All the cases are confined and all current public health and CDC recommended precautions have been taken,” U of L Health said.
A health department epidemiologist reported that infections appear to have started with staffers who then transmitted the virus to patients, Turner said.
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The outbreak comes amid a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases across Kentucky and in many U.S. states. Kentucky has reported 103,305 confirmed virus cases, with 68 of the its 120 counties now listed in the “red” for high levels of per capita infection rates.
On Thursday, Gov. Andy Beshear said the 1,821 new cases included 227 school age children and youth under age 18.
Public health experts blame the latest wave on community spread — cases cropping up after in-home gatherings or at workplaces — for adding to a spike that’s pushing into all parts of the state. In the process, it’s filtering into prisons, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings such as Peace Hospital.
The 220-bed facility at 2020 Newburg Road provides care for children, adolescents and adults. The hospital’s inpatient beds are reserved for children and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are undergoing acute behavioral and psychiatric symptoms.
Patients receive psychiatric care; individual, group and family therapy; educational services; and 24-hour nursing care. Peace also has an active outpatient program for children and teens experiencing depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health challenges.
Many of the youth have been in foster care and are on Medicaid.
Read this: Which Kentucky counties are in the ‘red’ coronavirus zone?
Turner said the health department doesn’t routinely inspect the hospital, but it works in coordination with the state Office of Inspector General and the state Department for Community Based Services. The inspector general for the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services is Adam Mather, the husband of the hospital director.
The health department hasn’t fielded any complaints about the facility or its handling of the surge. But an infectious disease specialist with the city agency was briefed about the numbers of COVID-19 cases and steps being taken to battling the outbreak during a recent conference call, Turner said.
In the U of L Health statement, officials said that “care for these patients in this setting is complicated … however, Peace has been working closely with Louisville Metro Department of Public Health, Kentucky Department of Public Health, and the Regional Infection Prevention Program of the Healthcare Associated Infection team to ensure all measures have been taken to protect our patients and our staff.”
U of L added that families are encouraged to reach out to the hospital for up-to-date information on their loved one.
Read this: What to know about COVID-19 recommendations for red counties
An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Peace Hospital as the lone psychiatric hospital in the Louisville area.
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