Judge orders DC psychiatric hospital to isolate patients following facility cases, deaths

Legal law concept image gavel on desk in office(Getty Images/iStockphoto/BCFC)

A federal judge has ordered St. Elizabeths Hospital to isolate patients exposed to the coronavirus after several deaths in the facility.

In an opinion released Saturday, the D.C. hospital was ordered by a federal judge to quarantine all patients exposed to the coronavirus separately.

Seven patients and two staff members have died from the virus, according to the opinion. And, as of Thursday, 68 staff members and 43 patients have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The decision was in response to a motion for emergency relief filed on behalf of three patients at St. Elizabeths by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, the ACLU of the District of Columbia and the law firm of Arnold & Porter.

In his opinion, Judge Randolph Moss stated that the continued spread of the virus at the hospital, “threatens the health and lives of patients and staff.”

In addition to isolation, his order requires reporting of numbers and conditions twice a week, stating that the hospital’s protocol for returning symptomatic patients to the general population is “not consistent with CDC standards.”

The opinion states that the court recognizes the hospital’s response to the outbreak is evolving as the crisis continues to evolve, that it is increasing its testing capacity and has expressed an intention to abide by the CDC guidelines.

Moss further states in his opinion that the hospital did not show evidence that they were evaluating patients who have received a negative test for “clinical suspicion” before release, and that the hospital’s evidence shows that they are releasing patients “immediately” to the general housing units after a single negative test.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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