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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Coronavirus: Central Texas takes action


Graphic of COVID-19. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

Central Texans prepare for the possible spread of the novel Coronavirus infection (COVID-19) as Travis County reports that at least one person is being tested for the virus.
At the Tuesday morning meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court, EMS System Medical Director for the City of Austin and Travis County Dr. Mark E. Escott confirmed that the county is in phase two of the county’s novel Coronavirus planning and response activities and said “there is one or more people currently under investigation.”
The announcement that at least one individual in Travis County is being tested for COVID-19 comes after The Centers for Disease Controls release of an individual In San Antonio who tested weakly positive for the virus and was later placed back into quarantine.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and local public health officials hosted a news conference March 1 at 10 a.m., and said the individual who was released was part of the more than 120 evacuees from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship who were brought to Lackland Air Force Base from Wuhan, China.
“The person had been treated in isolation and was not showing any symptoms and had two negative tests for more than 24 hours apart,” Nirenberg said. “This met the CDC’s criteria for release and the person was released Saturday. Unfortunately after the person’s release, the CDC received the results of another test that showed a weakly positive confirmation of the virus that causes COVID-19, the person was brought back in isolation and is now being monitored.”
The discharged patient was reported to have had contact with others while out of isolation.
San Antonio Metro Health has provided the following timeline for the public:
Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020
· 2:53 p.m. – The patient was dropped off at the Holiday Inn Express Airport at 91 NE Loop 410, San Antonio by a third-party driver. The patient entered the room at 3:11 p.m.
· 5:13 p.m. – The patient returned to the hotel lobby and requested a shuttle. The patient was picked up at 5:23 p.m. by a hotel shuttle driver.
· 5:30-7:30 p.m. – The patient visited North Star Mall, including Dillard’s, Talbot’s and Swarovski. The patient went to the food court, ordered food from a Chinese restaurant and ate alone in the food court area. Patient was not in close contact with anyone at the mall.
· 7:30 p.m. – Patient returned to hotel on the hotel shuttle.
· 7:35 p.m. – Patient re-entered room.
Sunday, March 1, 2020
· 2:00 a.m. – Patient was transported back to Texas Center for Infectious Disease in a specialized ambulance. All medical professionals on board wore personal protective equipment.
The North Star Mall responded by closing the shopping center for a 24 hour “deep cleaning,” the mall’s FaceBook page stated.
“We were notified this morning by the San Antonio Metro Health District of an individual who visited our shopping center and was later found to have tested positive for the coronavirus,” the Facebook post read. “The San Antonio Metro Health District has stated this individual was not exhibiting any symptoms and is considered to be relatively low risk to the public. While the shopping center had been cleaned several times using CDC-recommended products, as an abundance of caution, we made the decision to close North Star Mall temporarily to allow for a further deep cleaning of the center.”
The City of San Antonio issued a Public Health Emergency Declaration and sought a temporary restraining order to keep quarantine in effect for Diamond Princess Cruise evacuees, March 3.
The city attorney’s office sought a temporary restraining order, or TRO, in federal court to prevent the more than 120 people who have completed their 14-day quarantine from being released by the CDC until they have been tested and confirmed negative for the virus or completed a 28-day quarantine.
According to a city press release, the intent of the TRO was to pause the planned release today of the Diamond Princess cruise ship evacuees by the CDC and give the federal government the time necessary to be absolutely sure that those who are released from quarantine pose no risk to the community.
Nirenberg also issued a Public Health Emergency Declaration, which authorizes the city to take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine.
The order, according to a city press release, specifically declares that “ingress into and travel through the City of San Antonio from Lackland by those persons that have been quarantined in the facility is not permitted. No previously quarantined person shall be permitted to enter the City of San Antonio until further notice.” Effectively, the order requires the more than 120 evacuees at Lackland Air Force Base to remain on base and under quarantine.
“Especially given the release this weekend of a patient who had to be brought back into isolation after a ‘weakly positive’ test for the virus, it is imperative that every one of the individuals at Lackland be tested and cleared before being released, as recommended by our medical community,” Nirenberg reiterated in a press release. “If the federal government will not do the right thing in this case, the City of San Antonio will use its powers so that appropriate measures are taken to protect the community from exposure to COVID-19.”
U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez denied the TRO, however he stated in the order: “The United States Government is, in effect, washing its own hands further of this quarantine. This is disappointing.”
The 120 plus evacuees from the Diamond Princess Cruise are set to be released from quarantine March 3 in a “orderly way” in an effort to minimize potential exposure to the San Antonio community, a city press release stated. After pausing the scheduled release at the city’s request, the CDC modified its release protocol and provided a detailed departure plan, according to a city press release.
“Only individuals who have been symptom-free for the full 14-day quarantine period will be released,” the release states. Nirenberg stated in a press release that after the CDC’s modification of the quarantine release procedures, that he felt the CDC will minimize the risk of exposure.
“As mayor of this city, my foremost concern is preventing the spread of the coronavirus to the local community,” Nirenberg said. “I’m pleased that the CDC has made changes, and I’m comfortable that the plan as presented will minimize the risk of exposure. The release will be coordinated, not prolonged over several days, and passengers will not stay in local hotels and will go directly to the airport.”

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  • Novel coronavirus image courtesy of the Centers for Disease control

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