Two people evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and quarantined at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in San Antonio to three, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Friday.
CDC officials said they expect additional cases of the virus will be confirmed among the group of cruise ship evacuees, 144 of whom arrived in San Antonio Monday from Japan for the mandatory 14-day quarantine period. The first identified local case of coronavirus was diagnosed in a person who arrived at the base Feb. 6 from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
City of San Antonio officials said patients who tested positive or are showing symptoms of the virus are being kept in maximum isolation and away from the general public at the state-owned Texas Center for Infectious Disease hospital, where they will receive treatment. A 22-bed wing of the hospital on the city’s Southeast Side is housing those patients.
So far, 18 Americans repatriated from the ship have tested positive for the virus, according to the CDC. Eleven are being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and five are receiving medical care near Travis Air Force Base in California.
“Our residents should know that the federally ordered quarantine is functioning as it should,” San Antonio Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick said in a written statement. “Those evacuees, who are in quarantine on Lackland Air Force Base, who test positive for COVID-19 remain in isolation from the general public and other evacuees.”
Ninety evacuees who completed their quarantine period at Lackland were released Thursday.
While City officials continue to reiterate that the risk to the general public remains low despite local diagnoses, County officials this week have been pushing for a change in protocol that would allow those showing symptoms or diagnosed with the virus to remain at Lackland for treatment to further reduce risk of the virus spreading into the general population.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told the Rivard Report that the protocol changed to keep those showing symptoms on base for testing, but that they would continue to be transported to area hospitals for treatment.