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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed three more cases of coronavirus over the weekend, bringing the total number of positive cases in San Antonio to six.
The three new cases are among the evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and additional cases could be confirmed as testing results continue to be processed by the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, said Rear Adm. Nancy Knight, the CDC’s director of the Division of Global Health Protection at a press conference on Monday.
Knight, who is running the quarantine operation, said that neither the staff working with evacuees or the general population are at risk, despite the climb in positive cases locally.
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Two of the new cases were identified through voluntary testing being offered to the 144 cruise ship evacuees who were quarantined last week at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The third was diagnosed after being taken to a local hospital after exhibiting symptoms.
Hospital selection is overseen by the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council (STRAC), a network of hospitals and first responders who maintain the regional trauma and emergency health care system for San Antonio and the surrounding 22 counties.
Eric Epley, executive director at STRAC, said the protocol for determining which health care facilities will treat patients testing positive for novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, was based on a plan previously in place for the treatment of patients testing positive for Ebola.
“The [City of] San Antonio hazmat team and the San Antonio Fire Department team work closely with teams at those hospitals to ensure” appropriate transport and safety, Epley said, noting the plan for coronavirus evacuees is only slightly different than for those who test positive for Ebola.
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Currently, all six patients who tested positive for the virus are being treated at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease on San Antonio’s South Side, where they are housed in a 22-bed isolation unit.
Knight said that while the quarantine for patients who evacuated last week is set to end March 2, “some people might need to have their quarantine extended.”
Any evacuee who came in contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus will have their quarantine date extended to reflect the more recent date of potential exposure.
Knight said that some patients who tested positive for COVID-19 will be transported to different quarantine facilities in an effort to reunite families who were separated when coming back to the U.S.
“One of the individuals we have here who tested positive has a wife in quarantine at a different location, so we are working to bring her here so they can complete the incubation period together with the people we already have here,” Knight said.
While Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland might receive more evacuees or patients who transfer from one quarantine to another, the capacity as of now remains at 22, the total number that can be kept in quarantine at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease.