San Antonio coronavirus health emergency prompts call for change at CDC

Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated another economic development win Monday at the Mansion. That victory was overshadowed by a weekend misstep involving efforts to contain the corona-virus.

"What happened in San Antonio and what the CDC did is completely unacceptable,” said Abbott.

A woman among the first evacuees brought to Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland was released after passing two screening tests. However, after she left, the results of a third test came back positive.

RELATED: US COVID-19 death toll climbs to 6 in Washington

"It appears to be a case of negligence with regard to allowing this person, who had the coronavirus to leave the TCID, the Texas Center for Infectious Disease, and go back into the general population,” said Abbott.

Health authorities located the woman at a Holiday Inn near San Antonio's airport. It was determined she had also been to North Star Mall Saturday evening, staying there from around 5 pm. to 7:30 p.m.

"She spent most of her time sitting at the food court, by herself, eating her Chinese,” said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of the communicable disease division of the Metro Health District.

It’s not known exactly how many people at the mall she came in contact with.

RELATED: Governor Abbott, city leaders in San Antonio speak out after coronavirus patient mistakenly released

"Based on the history she had very casual contact with the folks and didn't spend too much time talking to either a cashier or clerk at the mall,” said Kurian.

Most of those classified as an exposure risk are from the medical center. Sixteen have been designated as low, two at medium and three hotel employees are considered to be at a low risk.

Deep cleanings are being done at the mall and hotel. The mall was closed for 24 hours to do it. Those who came in contact with the woman at the mall are currently considered at a low risk are told to do self-monitoring. 

Governor Abbott called on the CDC to change its two test release protocol. He wants a mandatory third and said all tests should be done 48 hours apart, not 24.

RELATED: CDC mistakenly releases San Antonio patient who later tests positive for Coronavirus

"We should see some movement in the approval of expanding of the protocol to expand those two negative tests to three, so some of those discussions are happening at the very high level and I suspect we will see some movement on that,” said Metro Health Director Dawn Emerick.

That could change the travel plans of 120 people who were recently sent to San Antonio and placed in quarantine. They were scheduled to be released Monday. A similar hold is being asked for 11 people still at the infectious disease center with the virus.

"At the end of the day, we believe they ought to be tested and we need assurances from CDC they would pose no additional risk to anyone in the public and we are going to do everything in our local authority that no one else is released, until we have that assurance,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

RELATED: San Antonio mayor issues declaration of public health emergency over coronavirus

Monday afternoon the Mayor made good on that promise by declaring a public health emergency. It prevents anyone held in quarantine at the airbase from being allowed into the city until further notice.

When the outbreak first happened, testing kits sent to Texas and other states had to be sent back because of a flaw. FOX7Austin is now being told that the testing gap is being filled.


"More labs will be capable of doing the testing. My understanding is the Lab in Lubbock, which is part of the Laboratory Response Network is now able to perform the testing, we hope very soon we can bring the testing online here in Austin at our public health lab and there are other labs around the nation and state that can perform the test,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt with the Texas Health & Human Services.