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12 patients and 24 staff test positive for COVID-19 at Central State Hospital, second employee dies

A second employee at Central State Hospital has died of coronavirus.

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — A second employee at Central State Hospital has died of coronavirus.

That's according to a news release from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health.

"It is with great sadness that we report the passing of a second employee at Central State Hospital.  We ask that you please keep the families of both employees in your thoughts and prayers during this tragic and difficult time," the release says.

The agency did not say the person's gender, or if they had an underlying medical condition. 

On Wednesday, the agency reported that a total of 15 staff and one patient at the hospital had tested positive since the start of the pandemic. That number has multiplied for patient cases, and nearly doubled for staff.

RELATED: At least 15 Central State Hospital staff members have tested positive for COVID-19

The agency says, as of Saturday, 12 patients and 24 employees have tested positive of COVID-19 after additional testing was conducted.

Patients who have tested positive have been placed in a designated isolation unit. The hospital is following guidelines from the Department of Public health for staff who have tested positive, according to the release.

Last week, the hospital came under fire from employees after a nurse, 53-year-old Mark DeLong, died from complications due to coronavirus. 

In a 13WMAZ Verify story from April 1, employees said hospital administration refused to let them wear PPE.

They were sent an email telling them not to wear masks and other PPE, saying it violated their dress code policy.

After DeLong’s death, administrators then told staff they could bring their own PPE in to the hospital.

According to the release, a National Guard Infection Control Team has finished decontaminating patient care and food service areas this week.

They are set to come back to the hospital on return Monday to decontaminate remaining areas.

"The health and safety of our staff and the people we serve remain our highest priority.  In this dynamic and challenging situation, we are taking every action with this in mind," the release says.

Gov. Brian Kemp sent a memo to hospital staff Saturday night that says:

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce the loss of a second dedicated public servant from Central State Hospital in Milledgeville to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marty and I are lifting up their families, friends, and community in our thoughts and prayers. We are making every effort to ensure the health and safety of our team members and patients at Central State Hospital and the city of Milledgeville. Their heroic efforts to serve on the front lines in the face of this challenge are so deeply appreciated.

Central State Hospital will continue the decontamination process that the National Guard has begun while ensuring that all hospital personnel are following the safety guidelines implemented by the Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now more than ever we are committed to supporting each and every employee at Central State. DBHDD will be offering grief counseling and emotional support through our Employee Assistance Program and through an Emotional Support Line. I encourage our team members to use these resources to provide strength and support as they experience sadness, loss, and the fear and anxiety that come with this terrible illness.

Commissioner Fitzgerald visited Central State this week to offer her personal support to our frontline workers there, and she continues to keep our office updated regularly on the ever changing situation. I thank her and her team for their leadership at this critical time. I know that Georgians are even stronger during these most difficult times. The way through this terrible pandemic is together, and we will use our collective strength to defeat this challenge.  


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