The Alaska Psychiatric Institute says it’s resuming admissions after investigating COVID-19 cases

Samples for COVID-19 testing are collected using a cotton swab like the one pictured here from the lab at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation hospital in Bethel, Alaska. (Katie Basile/KYUK)

The Alaska Psychiatric Institute is resuming admissions after further investigating four coronavirus cases that it had announced last week, according to a statement Wednesday from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

The decision is a reversal from Friday, when the health department said that the state-run psychiatric hospital in Anchorage would not admit new patients for two weeks after four patients tested positive for the virus.

Then, nearly a week later, it said in a statement Wednesday evening that two of the four patients were actually previously-known cases of COVID-19. One was diagnosed in August and another in September. And, the department said, the third patient was incorrectly identified as a positive case.

“This patient had two negative test results but that information was miscommunicated,” department spokesman Clinton Bennett wrote in an email.

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API knew the fourth patient had the coronavirus before admission, the statement said, so “the patient was immediately put in isolation and no other residents or staff were exposed.”

“With the completion of contact tracing, API has resumed admissions and will continue to monitor and respond to this evolving situation,” the statement said.

API is Alaska’s only state-run psychiatric facility. Hospital officials have raised concerns that when API stops admitting new patients, they are forced to hold psychiatric patients in hospitals, which further strains capacity at a time when coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising.

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Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.