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Nine people are in isolation at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease after testing positive for coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said two more cases of coronavirus were confirmed among the evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, bringing the total count to eight. The other person receiving treatment in San Antonio is brought from Wuhan, China where the virus was first detected.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the Rivard Report on Friday evening that all of the patients being treated in San Antonio are in stable condition and expected to fully recover.
“The individual who tested positive from the group of evacuees from Wuhan, China is waiting on a final negative test confirmation before being released,” Nirenberg said, noting the person “really wants to go home.” The other patients are doing well and will be released once they test negative for the virus, he said.
Eleven people are currently quarantined in the 22-bed wing of the Texas Center for Infectious Disease, the nine positive cases and two patients who are waiting for their test results to return.
The more than 100 remaining quarantined individuals at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland will continue to be checked twice a day, and if anyone develops symptoms during the 14-day quarantine period, they would then be transferred to a health care facility for treatment and testing, said Dr. Nancy Messonier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Texas officials have been taking steps for the past month to prepare for the potential spread of the novel coronavirus, known formally as COVID-19. During a Thursday briefing with public health and other state officials, Gov. Greg Abbott stressed that Texas state agencies are prepared to handle a variety of scenarios.
“They come with batteries included when it comes to being able to respond to this,” Abbott said, referring to state agencies. “We have an extremely robust, well-informed, activated force to prepare for any potential outcome that we may have to deal with.”
Abbott said Texas’ response plans are not being started from scratch, but rather are informed by historical knowledge gained from responses to other infectious disease emergencies, including H1N1 and Ebola. Abbott’s words echo those of local health officials who said on Monday they are employing the same protocol used for Ebola to determine which health care facilities will treat patients testing positive for novel coronavirus.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is leading the local effort to respond to the illness. Abbott said the agency is in close communication with a number of agencies, including the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas Education Agency, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.
DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said the CDC has given laboratories within the state the green light to receive and administer coronavirus testing kits and is beginning the validation process.
“That is a technical process that has to take place in order for us to establish that we can have reliable testing here in Texas,” Hellerstedt said.
Messonier said increasing the number of test kits is crucial to the U.S. containment strategy. Six states are utilizing test kits manufactured by the CDC, which the agency had to redistribute this week after kits sent out nationwide earlier this month included a faulty component.
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“Our goal is to have every state and local health department equipped with” kits to confirm results without the need for laboratory testing, Messonier said.
Abbott and DSHS officials stressed on Thursday that the risk of infections for Texans remains low, which the CDC says is because “the U.S. acted incredibly quickly, before most other countries” where coronavirus cases continue to rise.
“We aggressively controlled our border, which slowed the spread in the U.S., and we were able to focus efforts on travelers and those who were in close contact with them,” Messonier said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the number of confirmed coronavirus cases currently in San Antonio. That number is 9.