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Texas officials step in to stop release of people quarantined after cruise ship coronavirus scare

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Posted at 9:57 AM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 13:07:25-05

The state of Texas has stopped the release of quarantined cruise ship passengers who have fulfilled their Federal Quarantine requirements.

According to two passengers in the quarantine who were scheduled to be released Monday after 26 days, Texas officials stepped in to stop the release of civilians at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

According to the Texas Department of Health Services, a person under quarantine was released on Saturday, Feb. 29, and later tested positive for coronavirus. That person was returned to quarantine.

According to the CDC, the passenger who was released has been under quarantine after returning to the U.S. from Wuhan, China, on a state-chartered flight. After release, the CDC confirmed that a sample from that person was determined to be "weakly positive."

"The discharged patient had some contact with others while out of isolation, and CDC and local public health partners are following up to trace possible exposures and notify them of their potential risk," said the CDC in a statement. "The cycle of the virologic infection on this particular patient is longer than what has been previously seen."

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, “The fact that the CDC allowed the public to be exposed to a patient with a positive COVID-19 reading is unacceptable...We will hold the CDC accountable to providing complete transparency for the public. This situation is exactly why we have been asking for federal officials to accept the guidance of our medical community.”

A letter sent to the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from The Texas Department of Health Services asks for "written rationale for the release of individuals from quarantine."

RELATED: Arizona family onboard cruise ship quarantined near Japan

The letter reads:

"If CDC testing confirms the individual is still positive, I urge you to quickly review the science to determine what updates to CDC criteria are necessary. This should include a third consecutive negative test to create a more highly reliable
system for determining that a previously-positive person is clear of the virus. Local communities, the state, and the nation must be confident that CDC criteria is fully protecting U.S. communities from the risk of exposure."

Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a statement last week, "Texas state agencies are monitoring the situation and leading a coordinated and proactive effort to ensure the health and safety of all Texans."

"Governor Abbott has expressed his determination that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must demonstrate it has appropriately assessed the risks that these individuals pose to the public before they are released from quarantine today. I, as the state health official for Texas, support that request," wrote John Hellerstedt, M.D. Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services.

American passengers aboard the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship in Japan were transferred to Lackland Air Force Base after 12 days of quarantine on the cruise ship near Yokohama, Japan.

"It's like all of our greatest fears happening again," said Sommer Gunia, a surgeon in Arizona. "It seems like every time we pack and someone says 'It's time to go home,' it's one other thing and we don't get to go home."

Gunia, her husband Steve and four other family members from Arizona left in mid-January for the two-week Diamond Princess Cruise trip.

"We saved up for a dream vacation. We went on a vacation and then we've been treated like prisoners for the last 26 days," said Gunia. "It's really hard and on the day you think you're going to go home and see your puppies, it gets pulled away from you."