PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon State Hospital has quarantined three units for coronavirus outbreaks and halted new admissions amid a statewide surge in cases attributed to the highly contagious omicron variant.
Hospital Superintendent Dolly Matteucci said Tuesday that 29 patients at the psychiatric hospital had tested positive for COVID-19 since Dec. 29, and 32 staff had tested positive since Dec. 27. She said the Bird 1, Flower 3 and Leaf 3 units have been closed for quarantine, as the majority of infected patients are on those units. More than 60% of the patients on the Leaf 3 unit tested positive as of Tuesday.
The hospital has close to 600 patients and 1,500 staff at its main Salem campus.
Staff on those units are required to wear full personal protective equipment, and Matteucci said locks on those units would be changed as needed “to facilitate medical isolation.”
Two other units are being used to quarantine patients who have been exposed to or have been diagnosed with COVID.
Matteucci said more than half of the patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were showing symptoms, and that many of the patients are vaccinated, but none have had booster shots.
“Patients on the primary outbreak units who had boosters did not test positive, pointing to the effectiveness of the boosters,” Matteucci wrote in a public letter on Tuesday. “All eligible patients had been offered booster doses before this outbreak.”
The hospital has halted admissions during the outbreak, and patients will not be transferred from other units to any of the quarantined units.
Over the past year and a half, the hospital has faced scrutiny for its delaying of admissions for certain patients, in order to observe COVID-19 safety protocols. Delaying admissions of patients found unable to aid and assist in their own defense for more than seven days is a violation of a 2002 federal court order. The hospital sought and was granted a pause on that court order, which expired in December. The hospital has since been ordered by a federal judge to undergo a review from an outside expert to address the delayed admissions process.
Staff throughout the hospital are being asked to wear N95 masks and are required to follow state guidelines for quarantining at home if they fall ill. Most staff have been fitted for N95 masks.
The hospital has so far avoided COVID-19 outbreaks on the scale of some other institutions like Oregon prisons.
Nonetheless, the pandemic has led to a serious staffing crisis at state’s largest psychiatric facility. Twice in the summer of 2021, 30 Oregon National Guard members were sent to the hospital to help care for patients.