Judge mulls releasing patients from San Bernardino County psychiatric hospital as COVID-19 cases rise

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Patton State Hospital is seen in an undated photo. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Patton State Hospital is seen in an undated photo. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

With coronavirus infections soaring inside a locked California psychiatric hospital, a federal judge this week is weighing whether to release and transfer hundreds of patients from the facility or to wait for vaccines to be administered.

Patton State Psychiatric Hospital in San Bernardino County has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic with 471 patients testing positive for the virus — the highest caseload among the state’s five psychiatric facilities. Eleven patients are currently hospitalized with the virus and 14 others have died.

In all, nearly 1,300 patients are housed at Patton. They are largely people accused of violent crimes who were found by judges to be incompetent to stand trial or not guilty because of their mental illness. People committed to state psychiatric facilities like Patton typically must remain until a judge rules they would no longer pose a threat to themselves or others if released.

In August, a legal aid group, Disability Rights California, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Patton patients, alleging that cramped conditions in the hospital did not allow for social distancing. The case has taken on more urgency over the past month as infections and deaths have increased.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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