Only one patient with coronavirus remains in Contra Costa, U.S. Marshals at hospitals to enforce federal quarantine order

One possible additional case of a county hospital staff member

By Allen Payton

Many residents of Antioch and East County have had questions about the coronavirus. The Herald asked Will Harper, Acting Communications Director for Contra Costa Health Services to provide answers to of them.

First, it’s been said that one of the nurses at the county hospital has contracted the virus and there are now four cases in the county.

“I’m only aware of three cases that were in the county, two of which have been transferred out of our jurisdiction, Contra Costa County,” Harper responded. “Now we only have one at a hospital in the county. I am not aware of any cases that originated in Contra Costa.”

Asked if that patient was at Kaiser Deer Valley, he replied “I wouldn’t identify the hospital where the remaining patient is located.”

“We have had no healthcare workers including nurses that have tested positive for coronavirus,” said Dr. Samir Shah, Chief Medical Officer of the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. “The individual (county hospital staff member) we’re referring to developed upper respiratory symptoms within 24 hours of working with a potential patient with coronavirus. We’ve asked the individual to stay home in self-quarantine for the next 14 days. We are following the CDC guidelines. The tests were sent out earlier this week and our history with the CDC is that we’re getting back results within five to eight days.”

“They’re expanding their abilities to do testing, locally,” he explained. “So, in the near future we’re hoping to have access to testing closer to home for quicker turnaround. There will be an increase in the number of tests being requested from local hospitals.”

“Currently the CDC is determining which tests they will allow to happen based on their protocols and guidelines,” Dr. Shah said. “We can request the test, but they decide whether they’re going to run the test or not. We do this in conjunction with public health and the County Health Officer, Dr. Chris Farnitano.”

Asked why U.C. Davis Medical Center officials issued an announcement about the patient at their hospital and the public in Contra Costa County isn’t being informed which hospitals the patients are located, Harper said the health public information officers in the Bay Area all agreed it would be best for patient confidentiality to not provide that information.

“U.C. Davis executive leadership sent out very detailed information about the patient with coronavirus and hospital staff. It took local hospitals by surprise because we’ve been following strict communication guidelines avoiding individual patient disclosure details,” said Dr. Shah. “Public health controls what information can be offered up.”

Coronavirus. Image by CDC

“From a public reporting standpoint, it’s typically our policy to conform to patient privacy and not disclose patient care information to the public,” he stated. “However, given the level of interest and anxiety in the community, we are reconsidering how we are able to disclose information in a confidential manner that both meets the privacy requirements for the individual while still informing the public. Talking to you, today is part of that change.”

Finally, residents said they had heard there are U.S. Marshals at the county hospital to prevent staff from speaking about the patients with coronavirus there and that the hospital has been fined $250,000 because it had happened, previously.

Since it’s a federal matter, Harper suggested contacting Scott Pauley, the Public Information Officer for the Centers for Disease Control.

When reached for comment, Pauley replied, “No. That has nothing to do with the Marshals’ presence there. They are there to enforce the federal quarantine.”

“When a patient is in federal quarantine process, the Marshals enforce that isolation order to monitor the patient to make sure they don’t leave the hospital,” he said. “This is all part of the federal quarantine orders issued when they returned to the United States.”

“These individuals came from the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” Pauley added.

“I believe we had one U.S. Marshal around the clock, when the patient was here,” Dr. Shah shared.

The Good News

“The good news is that the individual that was brought here from Travis did well, was sent home and no longer requires any more hospital intervention,” he stated.

“While, this is a new virus and we’re still learning more every day, the international experience is that 80% of people who develop symptoms of this don’t require any hospitalization,” Dr. Shah added.

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