U.S. Coronavirus Patient Who Had Not Traveled Overseas Was Not Tested for Days

Current CDC regulations only allow testing for people who have recently been to China or know they had contact with someone infected with coronavirus

The first U.S. coronavirus patient who did not recently travel overseas was unable to be tested for several days because of federal regulations, The New York Times reported.

On Wednesday night, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that a woman in California had tested positive for the new coronavirus, officially termed COVID-19, despite not having contact with anyone with coronavirus and not having recently traveled overseas. This is the first case of its kind in the U.S., though the CDC said it will investigate whether the patient may have been exposed to someone with coronavirus.

The patient was identified by doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center as a possible coronavirus case last week, but the CDC did not test the patient for several days because she did not meet the testing criteria, which is currently limited to people who have recently traveled to China or a close contact of someone with coronavirus.

According to a letter from officials at U.C. Davis, the patient had come from another Northern California hospital with a suspected viral infection, and they immediately asked that the patient undergo coronavirus testing.

“We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor the California Department of Public Health is doing testing for coronavirus at this time. Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered,” officials at U.C. Davis said.

The CDC eventually ordered testing on Sunday, and the agency confirmed that the patient had coronavirus on Wednesday.

“This is not the first COVID-19 patient we have treated, and because of the precautions we have had in place since this patient’s arrival, we believe there has been minimal potential for exposure here at UC Davis Medical Center,” hospital officials said.

Coronavirus Outbreak in San Francisco
Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty

This new patient marks the 15th confirmed case found in the U.S. There are an additional 45 cases of coronavirus in Americans who were brought back to the U.S. by the state department, either because they were living in Hubei province in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, or because they had been on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was quarantined in Japan after the virus spread through the passengers.

On Tuesday, the CDC urged Americans to start preparing for a bigger outbreak in the U.S. “in the expectation that this could be bad,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen,” Messonnier said.

Just before the untraceable case was confirmed on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump said that Vice President Mike Pence will be leading the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. They plan to ask Congress for additional funding to prevent the disease from spreading.

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