Emily Allen Published

DHHR Confirms COVID-19 Outbreak At Huntington Hospital

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This story was updated at 5:50 p.m. with additional information from the Department of Health and Human Resources.

More than 50 patients and employees at Mildred Mitchell-Bateman Hospital in Huntington have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Local and state health officials tested all patients at the state-run psychiatric ward Tuesday, according to a statement from the state Department of Health and Human Resources Wednesday afternoon.

DHHR Cabinet Secretary Bill Crouch confirmed the outbreak during a virtual press briefing Wednesday, one week after an employee for the psychiatric facility died.

The DHHR said that it has yet to confirm a single source of the outbreak through contact tracing.

The Bateman employee was one of the first known nurses to die of COVID-19 in West Virginia.

“I will give you my assurances that as soon as we’re done here, I’m going to consult again with the National Guard and the DHHR, and amp up our response from the governor’s office, to be able to absolutely be positive [that] we’re doing everything that we possibly can there,” Gov. Jim Justice said.

The DHHR reported around 5 p.m. that Ayne Amjad, the state health officer, was on her way to Huntington.

So far, the outbreak includes 24 patients and 35 employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

All positive patients, Crouch said, are in an isolation unit away from other patients, while employees who have tested positive are supposed to stay home. He also said that the hospital has set up an exposure unit.

“We’re following this closely and having conversations with the CEO and administration of the facility daily,” Crouch said of the 110-bed hospital.

Officials from Bateman Hospital did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

This is not the state’s first documented hospital outbreak — in August, dozens of people from Logan and Mingo counties, working and staying at Logan Regional Medical Center, contracted the virus.

The state was tracking 28 active coronavirus outbreaks in long-term care facilities on Wednesday, according to the West Virginia coronavirus dashboard.

Five of those facilities are in Cabell County. In September, hospital workers with the local union for public employees protested against poor working conditions. As the Huntington Herald-Dispatch reported, employees and union representatives mentioned understaffing, bullying and a lack of resources for employee mental health.

According to the DHHR Wednesday afternoon, leaders at Bateman have “taken every precautionary measure suggested and required since March.” That would include daily temperature checks, screening and personal protective equipment.

State protocols require that the hospital continue testing staff and patients twice a week.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.