Labeling confusion to blame for UC San Diego Health’s release of coronavirus patient
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego County health officials held a press conference Tuesday about the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in San Diego County.
They revealed that a woman now confirmed to have the coronavirus was inadvertently released from isolation at UC San Diego Health and briefly returned to quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar before being diagnosed with the deadly illness, health officials said Tuesday.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USCD, the woman was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon, but when tests ultimately concluded she had contracted the virus, she was returned to the hospital Monday morning, and she remains in isolation.
The patient was among 167 people who were flown to Miramar from the area of Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, last Wednesday. She and three other people from the flight were subsequently hospitalized after showing possible symptoms of the disease that has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly in China.
According to UCSD Health, CDC officials informed local authorities on Sunday that the four patients “had tested negative for the virus. This information was shared with UC San Diego Health and at the CDC’s discretion, the four patients were discharged and returned to federal quarantine at MCAS Miramar.”
But on Monday morning, “CDC officials advised San Diego Public Health that further testing revealed that one of the four patients tested positive” for the coronavirus, now dubbed COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.
“The confirmed positive patient was returned to UC San Diego Health for observation and isolation until cleared by the CDC for release,” according to the hospital.
A second person from Miramar was also taken to the hospital Monday for evaluation for the illness.
“Both patients are doing well and have minimal symptoms,” UCSD Health officials said late Monday. “… UC San Diego Health has some of the nation’s leading experts on infectious diseases. We are fully prepared to care for adult patients with coronavirus. We want to assure you that patient safety is our top priority.”
CNN, citing an unnamed health official, reported that the woman’s inadvertent release from the hospital occurred because medical specimens collected from the four patients at UCSD Health were mislabeled when they arrived at the CDC’s lab in Atlanta. That error led the agency to mistakenly report that all four patients had tested negative, leading to their transfer back to Miramar, CNN reported.
At a news conference Tuesday, CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said there was a “mix-up” involving the test results. She said the agency is working to determine how many people the woman may have come into contact with after she was returned to Miramar.
“The preliminary information I had is that there was very limited contact,” Schuchat said. “But I think that’s being reassessed at this point.”
The San Diego patient is the 13th in the United States and the seventh in California. Los Angeles and Orange counties each have one confirmed patient.
All of the Wuhan-area evacuees who were brought to Miramar last week — 167 on Wednesday’s flight and another 65 on a separate Friday flight — will be under a mandatory two-week quarantine.
More than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported, all but two of them in China. More than 43,000 cases of the illness have been reported worldwide, the vast majority of them in China.
Nearly 200 Americans arrived at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside on Jan. 29 and were quarantined there after being evacuated from Wuhan. That quarantine period ended Tuesday morning, with none of them showing any signs of the disease.