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CDC Mistakenly Clears San Diego Patient With Coronavirus After Botched Test
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
UPDATE: 7:30 p.m., Feb. 11, 2020:
An error in the testing process by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention led to the mistaken release of a patient infected with the coronavirus, which is now being called COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, from a San Diego hospital back to a quarantine facility at MCAS Miramar.
This came after UC San Diego Health officials were told Sunday by the CDC that the patient, a woman, had tested negative for the virus.
CDC officials discovered the test result was mislabeled and never tested and the results from a different sample were what led to the initial negative report, a spokesperson for the CDC said.
The CDC headquarters in Atlanta found the mistake and notified officials in San Diego. The woman had already been released from the hospital and sent back to MCAS Miramar along with three others. Base officials later isolated her before returning her to UC San Diego Medical Center Hillcrest.
“The issue was the test wasn’t run when we thought it had been," CDC's Dr. Christopher Braden said at a news conference Tuesday evening. "Let me put that to bed the test is accurate.”
The woman was taken back to UC San Diego Medical Center Hillcrest once the positive test was matched to her. The three that were in the van with her are not at risk, Braden said.
“At most the middle-risk category and probably low-risk category of contact because all the passengers were wearing masks it was a short duration," he said.
Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said earlier Tuesday “there was probably a mix-up” and the agency said later it will now assign a laboratory specialist to its quarantine teams to prevent incorrect labeling.
UC San Diego Medical Center officials said Tuesday that it used pseudonyms on labels to protect patient privacy and that the CDC “used different naming protocols that were not shared with our institution.”
“We have since worked closely with the CDC to protect patient privacy while ensuring that labeling matches at all facilities,” the hospital said in a statement. It said the patient in isolation was doing well with minimal symptoms.
The woman was one of four who had been in isolation at the hospital after arriving from China last week at MCAS Miramar where they had been placed under a 14-day federally mandated quarantine, along with more than 200 other people.
This is the first confirmed COVID-19 case in San Diego and the 13th in the U.S. There are now seven confirmed cases in California.
The CDC has concluded the woman does not have any "high-risk exposures," meaning the agency believes she likely didn't infect anyone else or impact their quarantine, although they are continuing the investigation.
So far, the CDC confirms that nine of the evacuees have been taken to local hospitals. Six have tested negative, one positive, and two are still pending.
The 3-year-old girl, Annabel Wucisnki, who was taken to Rady Children's Hospital and was released last Friday after testing negative for the virus is now back at Rady's, Braden said.
"Since then the child has developed additional symptoms that then we want to evaluate," he said. "So we’ve then moved the patient back to Rady’s for that additional evaluation.”
Her father, Frank, is accompanying her at the hospital. He is not showing any symptoms.
Annabell, however, is doing well and is expected to remain well, UC San Diego Health Dr. Randy Taplitz said.
“What we’re seeing is a range of illness in these individuals from very mild illness to very severe illness," she said. "And even though the numbers are high most individuals will end up doing well.”
Editor's note: This story was updated to include the latest information from news conference at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
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