Veterans Affairs treating one coronavirus patient in California

Veterans Affairs treating one coronavirus patient in California
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is treating one patient with the novel coronavirus at its facility in Palo Alto, Calif., VA Secretary Robert WilkieRobert WilkieBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Two headstones with swastikas removed from Texas veterans cemetery MORE confirmed Wednesday.

The case marks the first confirmation of a veteran testing positive for the virus that has been sweeping the globe and causing fears of a pandemic.

“The one veteran we know of who has this virus — we prepared a swath, a section of our Palo Alto campus to receive veterans who would have this virus. We set it up for that, and that veteran is being taken care of there,” Wilkie said at a congressional hearing Wednesday.


Wilkie did not provide any more information on the patient, including the person’s demographics or condition.

Veterans Health Administration executive Richard Stone, who was testifying alongside Wilkie, said the patient, who officials had “been talking to for a protracted length of time,” was transferred from the commercial health care system because they wanted to be treated by the VA.

Wilkie and Stone’s comments come a day after Wilkie was added to the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, which is being overseen by Vice President Pence.

In the United States, there are more than 100 confirmed cases and nine confirmed deaths. All the deaths have occurred in the state of Washington.

At the hearing, Wilkie said his department has dusted off its response to previous outbreaks, such as Ebola and the H1N1 flu, to respond to the coronavirus.

Stone said his team has been working on the issue since the virus first appeared in China in January.


Among the steps that need to be taken, Stone said the VA has begun freeing up some of their “negative airflow" rooms. The VA has about 1,000 such rooms, which have specialized ventilation systems to help prevent the spread of infection.

One of the VA’s top concerns is its nursing homes, Stone said. As such, he added, the VA has started screening people with respiratory issues for the coronavirus before they are allowed to enter emergency rooms.

“Because we are seeing contacts throughout the nation of people that may have traveled to various areas, we have started pre-screening outside of our emergency rooms so that a febrile respiratory virus-infected patient is actually screened before they actually get in,” Stone said.

“Our special concern is that we operate 135 nursing homes with over 8,000 vulnerable veterans in them,” he added. “They are on our campuses, and we must protect them. And therefore, at the risk of some inconvenience, we are screening everybody coming into the institutions.”

The pre-screening has been most “robustly” done in the state of Washington, he added, adding it is “reaching out across the rest of the nation as we speak.”