SPOKANE, Wash. — Four Americans who are receiving treatment for coronavirus at Sacred Heart Medical Center were brought to the United States from a quarantined cruise ship, according to The Associated Press.
The Associated Press reports that 11 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship were taken to hospitals after delayed Japanese test results showed that they had COVID-19, more commonly known as coronavirus. Five other people who have shown symptoms of the virus have also been taken to hospitals.
Hundreds of passengers left the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Feb. 18 after their two-week quarantine ended.
The Spokane Regional Health District reported on Wednesday that all patients arriving in Spokane had tested positive for coronavirus.
Scott Pauley, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, declined to tell The Associated Press where the other cruise ship passengers were taken, apart from Spokane.
Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz said the patients were transported to the Spokane International Airport from Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, California.
One pair arrived before noon on Thursday, while the others arrived shortly before 4 p.m. Hospital staff said the patients are in satisfactory condition as of Friday morning.
An ambulance then transported the patients to Sacred Heart Medical Center.
"It is no risk to the general population. I will emphasize that as much as I possibly can," Lutz said at a press conference.
Lutz added that health officials say the risk of contracting the coronavirus for people living throughout the United States is "low."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which selected Sacred Heart, originally notified the hospital on Wednesday that it would receive five patients but the number dropped to four later that night, health officials said on Thursday.
Health officials did not specify if whether the patients contracted the virus in China or the United States. Sacred Heart staff told KREM's Taylor Viydo on Thursday that they are expected to stay at the hospital for at least two weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 180 people at Travis Air Force Base were medically cleared to leave the base on Tuesday. Two other groups were expected to be cleared later this week.
Sacred Heart chosen for its isolation rooms
Providence Sacred Heart was chosen "because of its secured airborne infection isolation rooms," health officials said. Normal hospital operations will remain unaffected.
During a press conference Thursday, health officials said it was a federal decision to send the patients to Spokane.
Sacred Heart is one of 10 hospitals in the U.S. with this specialized unit.
The other hospitals are located in Boston; New York City; Baltimore; Atlanta; Minneapolis; Galveston, Texas; Omaha, Nebraska; Denver; and Los Angeles.
The unit in Omaha has also received coronavirus patients, health officials said on Thursday. It is the first time the Special Pathogens Unit at Sacred Heart will be used to treat patients in this capacity.
Health officials said on Thursday that isolation room staff will wear fluid impermeable gowns, gloves and N-95 filtration masks with a face shield, and will use powered air purifying respirators.
"The level of personal protective equipment we are wearing is in alignment with the CDC guildines they have put out for caring for these patients, so that includes airborne protection, mucus membrane protection, and contact precautions," said Christa Arguinchona, who manages the Special Pathogens Unit.
Lutz said on Wednesday that healthcare workers have trained for this scenario for several years.
The move is a joint effort between the Spokane Regional Health District, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and the Washington State Department of Health, according to the release.
The most recent numbers from the state Department of Health indicate that 779 people in Washington are under public health supervision due to coronavirus. These people are being monitored due to risk of having contracted coronavirus.
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists 479 people under investigation for coronavirus. All of these people either are or will be tested.
There have been 15 positive tests for coronavirus in the United States, according to the CDC.
The Department of Health released a statement to KREM on Wednesday night, saying they had confidence in assisting Sacred Heart.
The statement reads:
"The Department of Health stands ready to support the Spokane Regional Health District and Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane in preparation for the arrival of 5 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. We want to reiterate that the risk to the public from COVID-19 remains low.
The health workers at Sacred Heart in Spokane are trained to offer the safest, highest quality care to their patients. Sacred Heart’s Special Pathogens Unit is specially equipped to treat patients with infectious diseases as well.
We have the highest confidence in the medical professionals assisting with the care and transport for these people and we remain committed to assisting our partners in Spokane as needed."
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