A Wuhan evacuee was released from quarantine in Texas and later tested positive for the coronavirus
CNN’s Ivan Watson reports from Goyang, South Korea, where authorities are trying out a new method to test for the novel coronavirus. South Korea has over 4,200 cases, with 26 deaths.
A person in San Antonio, Texas, who had previously tested negative twice for the coronavirus, and was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is now back in quarantine after a subsequent test came back positive.
The individual, who was evacuated from Wuhan, China, to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio on a flight chartered by the State Department was released from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease, according to San Antonio’s Mayor.
“The fact that the CDC allowed the public to be exposed to a patient with a positive COVID-19 reading is unacceptable,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg tweeted.
The San Antonio case highlights numerous complaints about testing procedures, including a flaw in test kits distributed by the CDC, a change in CDC criteria for diagnosing the virus and the limited number of labs able to perform testing.
Officials from the city of San Antonio, San Antonio Metro Health, and Bexar County released a statement from the CDC which said the person had been in quarantine for several weeks and tested negative for coronavirus on at least two occasions.
The person was released after meeting the CDC’s criteria for release which includes resolution of any symptoms and two consecutive sets of negative tests collected more than 24 hours apart.
“At the time of discharge from the facility, the patient was asymptomatic and met all of CDC’s criteria for release,” said the CDC statement. Following their release, a subsequent sample showed a weak positive. They were taken back into isolation at a local medical facility, the statement said.
It’s unclear why the additional test was performed. CNN’s calls to the CDC have not been returned.
“The discharged patient had some contact with others while out of isolation, and CDC and local public health partners are following up to trace possible exposures and notify them of their potential risk,” the statement said.
Now local officials are concerned that the person’s release could have exposed the community.
However, the individual is not showing any symptoms according to the local officials.
Mayor Nirenberg called the situation “unacceptable,” saying in a statement released Sunday, “We will hold the CDC accountable to providing complete transparency for the public. This situation is exactly why we have been asking for federal officials to accept the guidance of our medical community.”
As the federal quarantine period for Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship comes to an end Monday, Nirenberg says the city and health department will do all they can to keep the community safe.
“Our San Antonio Metro Health District and other local officials continue to address the situation with the utmost professionalism and care,” Nirenberg said. His concerns were shared by other San Antonio officials.
“This has been our biggest concern and now we will experience the consequences of no action,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said in the joint statement. “Time and time again, I have raised issues concerning evacuees, inappropriate accommodations, the risk of exposure during transporting and the need for additional monitoring and extended quarantine periods.”
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District spokeswoman Michelle Vigil said the person released by the CDC was one of 11 presumptive positive cases her department is monitoring. Nine of those people were evacuated from a cruise ship, one person was evacuated from Wuhan, and another was transferred from quarantine in Miramar, California, Vigil told CNN in an email.
Diagnosing patients has been problematic. Early in the outbreak, the CDC issued guidance saying potential patients needed either to have traveled to China or to have been in close contact with someone who visited in China before being tested. New criteria were issued after a patient from Northern California contracted the illness, despite meeting neither prerequisite.
This came two weeks after several states reported that some CDC test kits weren’t working properly, forcing the center to remake parts of the test. Health experts have also expressed concerns about a dearth of test kits.
The federal government is working to bolster its testing capabilities, mailing more than 15,000 test kits to local and state labs over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence said. Also, where there was only one CDC facility that could test for the virus in the early weeks of the outbreak, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last week there are now dozens of labs capable of doing the tests.