Two Georgia hospital workers die, 17 patients sickened with COVID-19

Georgia Army National Guardsmen on Monday were set to begin testing staff at Central State Hospital for COVID-19 after two workers there died and 17 patients were sickened amid the coronavirus pandemic. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
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Georgia Army National Guardsmen on Monday were set to begin testing staff at Central State Hospital for COVID-19 after two workers there died and 17 patients were sickened amid the coronavirus pandemic. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Guardsmen to begin testing Central State Hospital staff for disease

Georgia National Guardsmen on Monday were set to begin testing employees for COVID-19 at the state’s maximum-security forensic hospital in Milledgeville, where two workers have died and 17 patients have been sickened amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In all, 30 staff members have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus at Central State Hospital, which treats people the courts have ruled incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity due to mental illness.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced the deaths of the two workers in a statement about the hospital, which has about 800 employees and 173 patients.

“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,” Kemp said, adding that he and First Lady Marty Kemp are “lifting up their families, friends, and communities in our thoughts and prayers.”

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities declined to provide details about the workers, citing privacy reasons. But the agency said it has placed sickened patients in a “designated isolation unit” on the hospital campus. The hospital also recently received a large supply of masks and is screening employees entering the hospital and temporarily prohibiting visitors.

“Despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Central State Hospital staff continue to demonstrate ongoing commitment and dedication to our patients,” the agency said. “Our commitment is to do everything possible to keep them healthy and safe.”

The Union-Recorder in Milledgeville identified one of the deceased workers as Mark DeLong, a 53-year-old Baldwin County resident who worked as a licensed practical nurse at the hospital.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Army National Guard’s Macon-based 148th Brigade Support Battalion was set to begin testing hundreds of hospital workers for COVID-19 Monday, said Capt. Michael Sherwood, a spokesman for the unit. The testing was expected to continue Tuesday.