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Coronavirus outbreak reported at Maryland psychiatric hospital, officials say

Healthcare workers and patients at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Howard County have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Healthcare workers and patients at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Howard County have tested positive for the coronavirus. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

State officials confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak at the Clifton T. Perkins psychiatric hospital, saying eight patients and one staff member have tested positive.

The Maryland Department of Health said it was working with the Howard County Health Department, which said earlier Monday that it had “an outbreak at Perkins that involves both health care workers and patients."

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“Testing for healthcare workers and patients of the facility is ongoing and we will work with the Howard County Health Department to provide additional information as it becomes available,” state health department spokesman Charles Gischlar said.

Located in Jessup, the facility serves as Maryland’s maximum security state psychiatric hospital.

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Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3, which represents some of the employees inside the facility, said the outbreak is indicative of a larger issue with how the state is handling some essential employees.

While Gov. Larry Hogan has signed executive orders closing restaurants, bars and other businesses while restricting crowd size to 10 people or less — going as far as issuing a stay-at-home order on Monday — some have said the governor has still not done enough to protect essential state employees in Maryland’s prisons and hospitals.

On Monday, Maryland prison officials confirmed its first cases of coronavirus.

“We have been warning the administration about this happening for weeks,” Moran said.

He said he’s heard the facility has isolated the confirmed cases as well as others who are awaiting test results.

But he added that he heard the facility is still conducting some business as normal, allowing clients to congregate in groups and eat with one another.

Moran declined to comment as to the condition of any employees who have tested positive for the disease.

Gischlar, the health department spokesman, said Perkins is not permitting visitation and that staff who are ill may not report to work.

“All staff are screened upon entry to Perkins and patient temperatures are taken twice daily. All units are following strict isolation precautions and movement within the hospital is limited,” Gischlar said. “All staff and patients are required to wear mask and must adhere to standard transmission-based precautions to minimize exposure, including practicing proper hand hygiene.”

Gov. Larry Hogan said the outbreak is reflective of the fact that COVID-19 has spread statewide.

“It’s at all of our normal medical hospitals and it’s at our detention facilities and at all of our assisted living facilities and all of our nursing home faculties,” Hogan said. “There are literally thousands of facilities that we’re concerned about in the state of Maryland, including that one.”

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