San Antonio Mayor declares public health emergency after COVID-19 patient re-admitted

Texas

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (KXAN) — San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg has declared a public health emergency related to the Coronavirus.

The move comes after the CDC released a patient who later came back “weakly positive” for a COVID-19 reading.

Nirenberg says the declaration is an attempt to ensure the CDC does not release 122 other patients originally scheduled for discharge Monday.

As of about 3 p.m., the mayor said the CDC had not confirmed they will hold the patients.

The released patient was one of the people quarantined at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio after visiting Wuhan, China.

It’s believed the patient exposed at least 21 people after she left the base.

At least 18 people at a hospital and three more at a hotel.

Health officials say the patient spent a little over 12 hours in public, including here at North Star Mall. (KXAN/Tahera Rahman)

The patient also went to North Star Mall in San Antonio.

The CDC says there is a very low exposure risk and officials with San Antonio’s Metro Health insist all risk is contained.

A sign at North Star Mall indicates the shopping center will reopen Tuesday. (KXAN/Frank Martinez)

The mall shut down this afternoon as a precaution and plans to do a deep cleaning.

Earlier in the day, KXAN spoke with several employees who say although mall management found out about the exposure Monday morning, they did not notify employees.

“Which I thought was really crazy because I was like, ‘Woah, I was here that day!’ High traffic and you could only imagine what goes on,” said Briston Tunon Ortiz.

Ortiz works near the food court, where health officials say the patient ate.

“We work pretty close to the food court, we’re really at the center of the mall so to hear that she was that close to us is very alarming, to say the least,” he said.

Ortiz and others say they should not have found out about the incident through the media, but rather the mall.

Nirenberg calls the patient’s release a mistake by the CDC.

“We simply cannot have a screw-up like this from our federal partners,” he said during a press conference Monday morning.

Nirenberg says the CDC’s protocol needs to be re-evaluated.

“While the CDC is encouraging everyone to wash their hands and prevent the spread of the virus as we would during the season, I would encourage the federal administration to not wash its hands of the responsibility to protect the public,” he said.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott agrees, saying the woman should never have been released, putting others at risk.

“What happened in San Antonio and what the CDC did is completely unacceptable. It appears to be a case of negligence,” Abbott said during a separate news conference Monday morning.

Now, texas officials want the threshold for releasing patients to change from two negative tests to three.

They also want the tests done 48 hours apart, instead of 24 hours.

“What the CDC must do is they must improve their protocols and they must be absolutely certain that before they allow anybody to be released from any location in San Antonio, that they can ensure the public that whoever they are releasing does not have the Coronavirus,” said the Governor.

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In a Facebook post, Nirenberg said the center released the patient from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease. The patient has since returned to the TCID for more testing and monitoring to verify the latest reading.

“The fact that the CDC allowed the public to be exposed to a patient with a positive COVID-19 reading is unacceptable,” he wrote. “This incident is exactly why we have been asking for federal officials to accept the guidance of our local medical community.”

He said the patient previously contracted COVID-19, was quarantined and fully isolated for treatment. After getting treated, the patient was not showing symptoms and tested negative for COVID-19 twice in the past week.

Both negative tests were 24 hours apart.

The patient then got discharged from quarantine and was released Feb. 29. The patient met the requirements for release.

A third test came back positive after the patient was released and returned to quarantine at the TCID for isolated monitoring and more testing on March 1.

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