COVID-19 deaths rise at California state hospital

By Nadia Lopez . . .

A spike in coronavirus-related deaths at a state-run psychiatric hospital in Fresno County has angered and alarmed patients, who blame hospital staff for a massive outbreak that infected hundreds and killed more than a dozen patients over the past six months.

One patient who spoke with The Bee said he struggled to bring attention to the outbreak at Coalinga State Hospital in Fresno County. He said he’s been “ignored” and “neglected” for one simple reason — most of the patients in Coalinga are rapists, child molesters, and sexually violent predators.

The Coalinga facility has 1,286 beds and treats sexually violent predators, offenders with mental health disorders, and a group of severely disabled people who haven’t committed crimes but represent a danger to themselves or others.

A total of 20 residents have died, including 18 in the past six months, after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the California Department of State Hospital’s patient data tracker.

Department officials said mask-wearing among staff was “strictly enforced” and that the pandemic had taken a toll on the hospital’s residents just as it had on the population at large. They added that the hospital had and continues to clean “patient care areas” and other locations within the facility frequently.

However, the hospital hasn’t explained the winter outbreak, which was among the worst in the state’s five psychiatric facilities. At least 491 patients as of last week tested positive for the virus — the second-highest tally yet recorded behind Patton State Psychiatric Hospital in San Bernardino County.

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