Five employees from Good Samaritan Hospital are quarantined at home after being potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus.
The news, which the hospital publicized Tuesday—seven days after the suspected exposure—came just days after the Santa Clara County Public Health Department confirmed the second local case of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China and has infected more than 24,000 people world-wide.
The news took patients, visitors and staff members by surprise, and people inside the hospital reacted with shock at the lack of information.
On Jan. 28, a Good Sam patient—who eventually tested positive for the virus—walked into the hospital’s San Jose emergency room, according to a Tuesday news release. The patient wore a mask during the entire visit and public health officials sent the person home to self-isolate. With the help of the Centers for Disease Control, the county health department conducted an investigation to see who the patient might have exposed.
The five hospital employees were notified on February 3, six days after the contact, according to county health system Public Information Officer Joy Alexiou. They were placed on paid leave and directed to self-isolate for a week.
Health care workers may have seen other patients after the possible exposure, but county health has only notified members of the public who may have been present in the emergency room at the time the infected patient was there. Contact “doesn’t mean they are infectious, ” Alexiou said. “We’re doing this out an abundance of caution.”
Good Samaritan chief spokesman Christopher D. Brown declined to comment beyond the written statement and referred all questions to county health officials.
“It is important to note that the action taken by public health does not mean any of these employees will contract the virus as the risk is extremely low,” according to the news release, which is pasted in full below.
Good Samaritan Hospital is a safe location to provide and receive care.
A patient, now identified as positive for the novel (new) coronavirus, briefly sought care in Good Samaritan Hospital’s Emergency Department on Jan. 28. Since this was the second location where the patient sought care, he was already familiar with proper precautions and was wearing a mask during the entire duration he was present in our hospital. Upon evaluation, treatment and consultation with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, it was determined that the patient should self-isolate at home.
As a result of the confirmed case, the public health department conducted a “contact investigation.” Out of an abundance of caution and for the community’s safety, the public health department has directed five employees to self-isolate at home until Feb. 11. These employees will be closely monitored by the department and placed on paid leave by Good Samaritan until the isolation period concludes. It is important to note that the action taken by public health does not mean any of these employees will contract the virus as the risk is extremely low.
Good Samaritan, as part of HCA Healthcare, has been working in tandem with the CDC and locally with the public health department on proactive preparedness precautions at the earliest stages of the outbreak of the novel (new) corona virus in China. Good Samaritan Hospital continuously provides the latest updates, education and PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies to our staff to ensure their safety and prevent contraction of the virus.
For additional questions about the investigation, please contact the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
Maury Kendall, a spokesman for the county health department, said patients and visitors who were in the emergency room when the infected patient arrived were alerted about the potential exposure as part of the investigation.
Both of the people in Santa Clara County who have fallen ill with the coronavirus had recently traveled to Wuhan. However, Dr. Sara Cody, the health officer and director for the county, said on Sunday that the risk to the public remains low and that there’s no reason to believe the virus is circulating in the community.
Two cases in San Benito County were also confirmed Sunday afternoon—a husband and wife, both of whom are both 57-years-old.
“The husband recently traveled from Wuhan, China the wife did not,” Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, San Benito County's health officer said at a Sunday evening press conference. “Therefore, there has been person-to-person transmission.”
As of Wednesday, 11 cases had been confirmed in the U.S. with California, Arizona, Washington, Illinois and Massachusetts all reporting patients with the virus.
Local health officials in Silicon Valley are encouraging people who have recently been to China and feel sick to avoid contact with others and contact their doctor’s office or emergency room to report their symptoms.
This article was updated at 3:50pm Feb. 5 from an earlier version.