SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) – The city of San Antonio has lost a court battle aimed at extending the quarantine for current coronavirus evacuees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
The city sought the temporary restraining order after a coronavirus patient who was cleared and released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention visited North Star Mall and stayed at a Holiday Inn near the airport.
Attorneys representing the city argued that releasing more than 120 evacuees brought to Lackland February 17 would threaten public safety.
Federal Judge Xavier Rodriguez denied the TRO, but stated in his order,”The United States Government is, in effect, washing its own hands further of this quarantine. This is disappointing.”
Earlier Monday, Mayor Ron Nirenberg issued a Public Health Emergency Declaration, which authorizes the City to take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine. The declaration prohibits individuals who have been quarantined at Lackland from coming into San Antonio or traveling through the city. It states,”No previously quarantined person shall be permitted to enter the City of San Antonio until further notice.”
Nirenberg said,”If the federal government will not do the right thing in this case, the City of San Antonio will use its powers so that appropriate measures are taken to protect the community from exposure to COVID-19.”
The state of emergency continues until March 9.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff later issued a similar Public Health Emergency Declaration for the county.
A coronavirus patient who was cleared and released by the CDC Saturday spent more than 12 hours in the San Antonio community before she was informed that a third test came back positive, and she was returned to isolation.
San Antonio Metro Health says the evacuee from Wuhan, China was dropped off at the Holiday Inn Express Airport , 91 NE Loop 410, by a third-party driver just before 3 pm Saturday.
She checked into the hotel and returned to the lobby shortly after 5 pm and requested a shuttle. She was dropped off at North Star Mall around 5:30 pm where she visited Dillard’s, Talbot’s and Swarovski. The patient then went to the food court and ordered Chinese food. San Antonio Metro Health says the woman ate alone in the food court area and was not in close contact with anyone at the mall.
The evacuee took a hotel shuttle back to the Holiday Inn Express around 7:30 and went back to her room.
Around 2 a.m. Sunday, she was transported back to Texas Center for Infectious Disease in a specialized ambulance. All medical personnel on board wore personal protective equipment.
Metro health is in the process of reaching out to individuals who may have come in contact with the woman to notify them of the potential risk of exposure. All individuals who came in contact with her at the hotel and mall are considered “low risk of exposure,” and only two of the 18 people who came in contact with the patient at the TCID hospital are considered “medium risk.”
Metro Health has recommended to hotel and mall management deep cleaning of the areas .
North Star Mall shut down Monday afternoon for a deep cleaning.
“The San Antonio Metro Health District has stated this individual was not exhibiting any symptoms and is considered to be relatively low risk to the public. While the shopping center had been cleaned several times using CDC-recommended products, as an abundance of caution, we made the decision to close North Star Mall temporarily to allow for a further deep cleaning of the center,” Mall officials said in a statement.
“We want to reiterate that there is a low risk to the public, but we are taking extra precautions for the well-being of our shopping center community. We anticipate North Star Mall will be closed for approximately 24 hours,” mall officials said.
Metro Health says human coronavirus is most commonly spread from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets released by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection have reported mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and shortness of breath.