Screening for SARS-CoV-2 Infection Within a Psychiatric Hospital and Considerations for Limiting Transmission Within Residential Psychiatric Facilities - Wyoming, 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Jul 3;69(26):825-829. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6926a4.


In the United States, approximately 180,000 patients receive mental health services each day at approximately 4,000 inpatient and residential psychiatric facilities (1). SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), can spread rapidly within congregate residential settings (2-4), including psychiatric facilities. On April 13, 2020, two patients were transferred to Wyoming's state psychiatric hospital from a private psychiatric hospital that had confirmed COVID-19 cases among its residents and staff members (5). Although both patients were asymptomatic at the time of transfer and one had a negative test result for SARS-CoV-2 at the originating facility, they were both isolated and received testing upon arrival at the state facility. On April 16, 2020, the test results indicated that both patients had SARS-CoV-2 infection. In response, the state hospital implemented expanded COVID-19 infection prevention and control (IPC) procedures (e.g., enhanced screening, testing, and management of new patient admissions) and adapted some standard IPC measures to facilitate implementation within the psychiatric patient population (e.g., use of modified face coverings). To assess the likely effectiveness of these procedures and determine SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence among patients and health care personnel (HCP) (6) at the state hospital, a point prevalence survey was conducted. On May 1, 2020, 18 days after the patients' arrival, 46 (61%) of 76 patients and 171 (61%) of 282 HCP had nasopharyngeal swabs collected and tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. All patients and HCP who received testing had negative test results, suggesting that the hospital's expanded IPC strategies might have been effective in preventing the introduction and spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection within the facility. In congregate residential settings, prompt identification of COVID-19 cases and application of strong IPC procedures are critical to ensuring the protection of other patients and staff members. Although standard guidance exists for other congregate facilities (7) and for HCP in general (8), modifications and nonstandard solutions might be needed to account for the specific needs of psychiatric facilities, their patients, and staff members.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Coronavirus Infections / transmission
  • Cross Infection / epidemiology
  • Cross Infection / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / transmission
  • Residential Facilities*
  • Wyoming / epidemiology