Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Coronavirus patient in San Antonio mistakenly released

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Story at a glance

  • A patient who tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in San Antonio was mistakenly released.
  • They have since been readmitted, but officials highlight tensions between local health care labs and the CDC.
  • Local officials say the CDC needs to provide more information.

Officials in San Antonio said that a patient recently cleared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) later tested positive for the coronavirus COVID-19 that is taking hold in the U.S. The patient was released into the public following a false negative test result. 

According to the Austin Statesman, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that the patient was quarantined after contracting COVID-19, where they tested negative for COVID-19 twice. They were discharged from the Texas Center for Infectious Diseases on Saturday before a third test recorded positive results.

The patient has since been readmitted. 

This comes as the CDC is facing criticism regarding how they have supported local health care providers ahead of the coronavirus outbreak. Cases in the U.S. have jumped over the past few days, and state and local labs were sent test kits last week. These are updated test kits following the first release which contained a reagent that gave inconclusive results. 

CNN also reports that physicians across the U.S. have said that the CDC has not provided “crucial information” which could help save the lives of infected patients. 

Dr. Irwin Redlender, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told CNN that “It’s a medical truism that it’s absolutely essential that physicians with experience with a particular condition disseminate information to others.” 

Redlender also added that to not share relevant information “is inexplicable and inappropriate.”

Mayor Nirenberg shared similar frustration regarding the CDC, saying that “The fact that the CDC allowed the public to be exposed to a patient with a positive COVID-19 reading is unacceptable,” Nirenberg said in a statement. “This incident is exactly why we have been asking for federal officials to accept the guidance of our local medical community.”

Per its website, the CDC states that it is “operationalizing all of its pandemic preparedness and response plans, working on multiple fronts to meet these goals, including specific measures to prepare communities to respond to local transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

The CDC did co-author and release a whitepaper that documents COVID-19 treatment in the U.S. through the New England Journal of Medicine in late January. This can act as a guide for some physicians on who to test — patients with a recent history of travel or exposure to confirmed coronavirus patients — and the symptoms to look out for.

Since publication, however, the first cases of apparent community spread have been documented in the U.S., in California, Oregon and Washington. Community spread occurs when the patient has no obvious travel history or contact that would expose them to the virus. This will likely change the scope of who to test. 

There are currently 89,197 global cases confirmed, and 86 confirmed cases in the U.S. Two U.S. citizens, members of a nursing home that is experiencing an outbreak in Washington, have recently died due to complications.

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