San Antonio Declares Local State of Emergency Over COVID-19
The City of San Antonio has declared a local state of disaster and public health emergency Monday after it was revealed that a woman released from quarantine at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease over the weekend tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
NOTE: My goal in sharing this news is to inform the public of what is happening in San Antonio, not to add to the panic and hysteria over COVID-19 that seems to be rampant on social media and some other media sites.
At a press release Monday, officials said the woman tested negative in two tests that met Centers for Disease Control standards and was released from quarantine Saturday for 12 hours, during which she visited a Holiday Inn near San Antonio's airport and North Star Mall. However, a third test that had been pending returned a positive result, which prompted health officials to investigate her history since being released and assess the risk she may or may not have posed to others.
Metropolitan Health District Assistant Director Anita K. Kurian said the woman in question was not displaying symptoms of infection and met all CDC release criteria upon release, and that her office has identified the places the patient visited and contacted people with whom she interacted.
"We've completed our risk assessment, and I can say pretty much everybody has been deemed to be low-risk except for a few selected health care personnel who were directly in contact with her at the time of her release."
Kurian said 16 of the 18 health care workers were deemed low-risk, with the remaining two deemed medium-risk.
The woman was returned to the Texas Center for Infectious Disease early Sunday.
In response to questions from reporters about the patient's time at the mall, Kurian said the woman made brief contact with other people while browsing and eating at a food court, and that her office believes those people are at low risk for infection.
Those the patient had contact with at the hotel were also deemed low-risk. They've been asked to self-monitor and report to her office if they display symptoms of a respiratory infection.
Both the mall and the Holiday Inn were being treated with disinfectants.
UPDATE: The North Star Mall will close for 24 hours to undergo a deep cleaning.
Under the terms of the emergency declaration, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said anyone previously or currently quarantined has been prohibited from entering the City of San Antonio, including the airport.
Mayor Nirenberg said he and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff has been in touch with state and federal officials, who they are calling upon to keep 122 evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently under quarantine at Lackland under further quarantine until they can be tested once more for COVID-19.
The San Antonio Express News reports that the evacuees had been scheduled to be released Monday after a 14-day quarantine. Governor Greg Abbott is in agreement with Mayor Nirenberg and Judge Wolff, and wants the CDC to provide written rationale before releasing anyone currently under quarantine.
KVUE-TV reports that Gov. Abbott spoke with Vice President Mike Pence Monday, after which he drafted a letter to the CDC expressing his concerns and demanding changes to protocol based on this conversation with VP Pence. Specifically, Abbott wants the CDC to require three tests 48 hours apart (rather than the currently required two tests 24 hours apart) before releasing anyone.
At a press conference, Gov. Abbott said the best way the public can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to do what they've always done to prevent the flu: wash their hands, cover and contain coughs and sneezes, use hand sanitizer, and see a doctor if they believe they're sick.
As I mentioned above, I wanted to inform friends and neighbors about the situation in San Antonio, not stoke any more fear over COVID-19.
I care for a family member who's among the demographic most at risk for the disease (most respiratory diseases, actually), so I'm doing my best to keep up with developments and use what I see to keep myself and my family member safe. At this stage, it appears Gov. Abbott is absolutely correct. I'll continue to wash my hands often, keep surfaces I regularly come in contact with clean, and keep on living my life.
I'm not saying we shouldn't take COVID-19 seriously, but it sounds like basic hygiene and common sense will keep the vast majority of us healthy.
Besides, Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that the flu is affecting far more Americans than COVID-19 and nobody seems to be panicking about that.