COVID-19 outbreak and genomic investigation in an inpatient behavioral health unit

Estefany Rios-Guzman, Alina G. Stancovici, Lacy M. Simons, Grace Barajas, Katia Glenn, Rachel T. Weber, Egon A. Ozer, Ramon Lorenzo-Redondo, Judd F. Hultquist, Maureen K. Bolon*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Inpatient behavioral health units (BHUs) had unique challenges in implementing interventions to mitigate coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission, in part due to socialization in BHU settings. The objective of this study was to identify the transmission routes and the efficacy of the mitigation strategies employed during a COVID-19 outbreak in an inpatient BHU during the Omicron surge from December 2021 to January 2022. Methods: An outbreak investigation was performed after identifying 2 COVID-19-positive BHU inpatients on December 16 and 20, 2021. Mitigation measures involved weekly point prevalence testing for all inpatients, healthcare workers (HCWs), and staff, followed by infection prevention mitigation measures and molecular surveillance. Whole-genome sequencing on a subset of COVID-19-positive individuals was performed to identify the outbreak source. Finally, an outbreak control sustainability plan was formulated for future BHU outbreak resurgences. Results: We identified 35 HCWs and 8 inpatients who tested positive in the BHU between December 16, 2021, and January 17, 2022. We generated severe acute respiratory coronavirus virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomes from 15 HCWs and all inpatients. Phylogenetic analyses revealed 3 distinct but genetically related clusters: (1) an HCW and inpatient outbreak likely initiated by staff, (2) an HCW and inpatient outbreak likely initiated by an inpatient visitor, and (3) an HCW-only cluster initiated by staff. Conclusions: Distinct transmission clusters are consistent with multiple, independent SARS-CoV-2 introductions with further inpatient transmission occurring in communal settings. The implemented outbreak control plan comprised of enhanced personal protective equipment requirements, limited socialization, and molecular surveillance likely minimized disruptions to patient care as a model for future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere62
JournalAntimicrobial Stewardship and Healthcare Epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 29 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Epidemiology

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