North Star Mall has announced a temporary closure in an effort to perform a deep cleaning of the shopping center after a visit from a patient released by the CDC tested positive for COVID-19. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

North Star Mall opened its doors Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. after closing temporarily so employees could deep clean of the shopping center following a visit Saturday from a woman who was released from quarantine before test results found she still carried traces of the novel coronavirus.

Mall officials said some of stores will have delayed openings, and recommended people confirming individual store hours prior to visiting the shopping center.

San Antonio health officials Monday said potential exposure risk to the community “is deemed to be low” because the woman spent only a brief time in close contact with people at the mall and employees at a Holiday Inn near the San Antonio International Airport.

Meanwhile, Mayor Ron Nirenberg declared a public health emergency, delaying the release from quarantine of 122 cruise ship passengers evacuated from Japan to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

San Antonio health officials said Monday the patient was not exhibiting symptoms, but North Star Mall officials said they were “taking extra precautions for the well-being of [the] shopping center community” by closing for approximately 24 hours so that the facilities can be cleaned further.

“While the shopping center has been cleaned several times using [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]-recommended products, as an abundance of caution, we made the decision to close” temporarily, North Star Mall officials said in a statement.

The mall was closed for deep cleaning for less than 24-hours.

The woman, who visited the mall from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m Saturday, was released from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease earlier that day following two negative test results for the virus, but before officials had gotten the results of her third COVID-19 test. Those later results showed her to be “weakly positive” for the virus, said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of communicable diseases at Metro Health. The woman returned to quarantine Saturday evening.

City officials released a timeline stating that the woman arrived at North Star Mall at 5:30 p.m, where she visited Dillard’s, Talbot’s, and Swarovski before ordering Chinese food at the food court and going to the hotel at 7:30 p.m.

At 2 a.m. Sunday, the patient was transported back to the Texas Center for Infectious Disease, where she remains in quarantine.

The woman was part of a group of Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and put into quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in early February.

Nirenberg said it was “unacceptable” for the CDC to release the woman from quarantine. “We simply cannot have a screw-up like this from our federal partners,” Nirenberg said, before declaring a local state of disaster and public health emergency.

The declaration prevents the release from quarantine of 122 cruise ship passengers evacuated from Japan to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland temporarily, and prevents previously quarantined people from entering San Antonio until further notice.

North Star Mall officials said it “will be transparent with the community during this time.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the San Antonio Report.