Western State Hospital staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and has recovered

Release Date: 
Mar 18 2020
DSHS Office of Communications
Kelly Von Holtz

LAKEWOOD – Today, the Department of Social and Health Services learned that an employee at Western State Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee was last at work on March 8 and had not been working at the hospital since before the incubation period of the virus. The Tacoma-Pierce County Department of Health does not believe the employee has come in contact with other hospital staff or patients while the employee has had the virus. This staff member did not work on the same ward as the patient at Western who also tested positive for the virus.

This is the first lab-confirmed case of a Western State Hospital staff member contracting COVID-19 . The staff member has recovered and is symptom-free.

Western along with all DSHS 24/7 facilities, began screening all visitors for COVID-19 on March 6 and as part of Governor Inslee’s proclamation, restricted all visitors with a few professional exceptions on Monday, March 16. The hospital will also begin screening staff prior to them entering the facility as soon as a shipment of thermometers is received.

“The screening of staff is necessary to protect our facilities from COVID-19,” explained Sean Murphy, DSHS Assistant Secretary for the Behavioral Health Administration. “I know that everyone is committed to a healthy workplace, especially during this current situation, and it is up to all of us to help mitigate the spread of this disease.”

The active health screening will occur when staff arrive to work each day or when they call in sick. It will include a temperature check and screening questions related to COVID-19 symptoms and recent international travel. Staff who refuse to be screened will not be able to work and will be placed on leave.

Once screening begins it will be conducted at three locations around Western’s campus inside building entrances. There will be tents at each location to help protect staff from the elements.