A psychiatric technician at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie County has died of COVID-19, the second employee of a state behavioral health facility to die of complications from the coronavirus disease.
The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services confirmed the fatality on Friday.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of an employee at Central State Hospital last month due to complications related to COVID-19,” spokesperson Lauren Cunningham said in an email.
“Our hearts go out to this person’s family and co-workers during this difficult time,” Cunningham said.
A nurse at Southern Virginia Health Institute in Danville died of complications from COVID-19 in early September. Those are the only two staff fatalities from the disease, which has killed 25 patients or residents at four other state facilities, including 15 at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital and six at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, both in Burkeville in Nottoway County.
Just over half of the employees at 12 state behavioral health facilities have received at least one dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease.
Through Friday, Cunningham said that 3,155 employees, or about 57%, had received their first dose of a vaccine and 2,633, or about 48%, had received their second dose “and are now fully vaccinated.”
“We are incredibly grateful to the teams in our facilities and Central Office who worked hard to help get staff vaccinated over the last two months,” she said.
However, Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, chairman of a joint subcommittee studying reforms of the state behavioral health system, expressed concern that so many employees have not received the vaccination against a disease that has raged through state mental hospitals and other facilities.
“You can’t force people to take vaccines,” Deeds said Friday. “But it’s getting to be where it’s a serious problem.”
Since the pandemic began, COVID-19 has infected almost 1,700 patients and employees at state behavioral health facilities, according to the department’s website. Currently, the facilities have 44 active cases and 11 tests pending, while 1,603 people have recovered from the illness.
Most recently, the institute in Danville is experiencing its third large outbreak of the disease, with two employees and 11 patients testing positive for the virus as of Friday.
Cunningham would not say exactly when the technician died at Central State or whether it occurred before vaccinations against COVID-19 had been offered there.
“Out of concerns for privacy and respect for the family, we can’t share any further details about the staff member who passed at this time,” she said.
Deeds said he had not been aware of the employee death.
“I’m just as sorry as I can be for the employee and family,” he said.