A patient who was being treated for COVID-19 at a Texas Center for Infectious Disease (TCID) facility ended up wandering through a mall for two hours after she was mistakenly released.
In addition to wandering through the mall, officials have confirmed that the patient also went to a local hotel.
In a statement given by San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, the patient wandered around the mall at around 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. CST after they were mistakenly released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most of that time, she sat alone at the food court. In addition to this, the patient also went to a local hotel where she came into contact with at least 3 people. Despite this, officials claimed that the risk factor for spreading the disease was low.
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“Today we learned that the CDC mistakenly released a patient from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease who later returned a positive COVID-19 reading,” wrote Nirenberg on Twitter.
Today we learned that the CDC mistakenly released a patient from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease who later returned a positive COVID-19 reading.
The fact that the CDC allowed the public to be exposed to a patient with a positive COVID-19 reading is unacceptable.
— Mayor Ron Nirenberg (@Ron_Nirenberg) March 2, 2020
Patient met the criteria for release
When asked why the patient was released from the TCID facility where she was being treated, the CDC stated that the patient had met all the criteria for release. This included two tests for the infection that came up negative. Prior to this, the patient had been confined for 12 hours after returning to the U.S. from a trip to Wuhan, China.
However, when the patient returned to the medical facility, a third test came up as weakly positive. As a result, the patient has once again been placed in isolation. According to Texas health officials, all three tests were conducted at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta.
According to the CDC, other facilities have encountered similar situations where test results have alternated between negative and positive. This is the reason why patients need to have two negative tests from specimens taken more than 24 hours apart. However, in this case, the mistakenly released patient had tested negative twice, before a third test came up as positive. (Related: “Recovered” coronavirus patients in China are testing positive a second time.)
To prevent the spread of infection, the CDC has confirmed that local public health officials are now trying to track where exactly the patient went during their release. This includes people the patient may have come into contact with outside the federally ordered quarantine and notifying them of the potential risk.
CDC under criticism
Mayor Nirenberg has been vocal in criticizing the CDC’s handling of the situation. He has since stated that his office would “hold the CDC accountable” to make sure that the latter releases more information about the patient to the public. “I have asked the CDC to do everything in their power to ensure that those who are released pose no risk to the community,” stated Mayor Nirenberg.
In addition to the mayor, Governor Gregg Abbot has also spoken up about the incident, criticizing the CDC.
“What happened in San Antonio and what the CDC did is completely unacceptable,” stated Abbot during a Monday morning news conference. “It appears to be a case of negligence with regard to how this person, who had the coronavirus, could leave TCID and go back into the general population. I think they understand the magnitude of the error they made.”
In addition to the mistakenly released patient, 120 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship are also in quarantine in San Antonio. These passengers were originally scheduled to be released on Monday. However, Mayor Nirenberg and other officials in San Antonio have now called for a third lab test to be conducted on for the passengers before they are released.