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Patient's positive COVID test puts some UVa hospital staff in quarantine

A patient who transferred into a unit at the University of Virginia Medical Center late last week from another facility has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, forcing some staff members to quarantine, according to hospital officials.

The patient was in a private room and did not have direct contact with other patients. Officials said they are tracing the patient’s contacts to advise them of the positive test.

The patient’s name was not released and other information is being withheld due to medical privacy laws.

“The patient came into the hospital without any symptoms and, after being here for several days, developed symptoms and tested positive,” said Dr. Reid Adams, an oncology surgeon and associate director of clinical affairs for the hospital’s cancer center. “We performed contract tracing and we had to ask some people go into quarantine.”

The patient developed symptoms early this week, officials said.

Several staff members have tested negative for the virus after the exposure while others have yet to be tested but are in quarantine. It takes four to seven days after exposure before a test can accurately determine if someone has contracted COVID-19.

So far no staff members have developed symptoms of the virus.

“A test now doesn’t mean that four days from now symptoms won’t develop,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVa. “Going into quarantine is important because what happened on Monday doesn’t reflect what the test will show four days later.”

Medical Center officials screen patients prior to admission to determine if they are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or may have been in contact with someone with virus. UVa often receives patients who transfer from other hospitals and those patients go through similar screening, but do not necessarily receive a test prior to admission.

“We identify patients who have symptoms or risk factors and that ends up a being a pretty liberal testing protocol. We test many of them, but we don’t test everybody,” said Sifri.

Staff, visitors and patients are required to wear masks when possible and maintain social distancing. Sifri noted that nurses, doctors and other caregivers cannot always maintain proper social distance when taking care of patients.

“We emphasize the approach that anybody we’re seeing could have COVID and that at any time we ourselves could have COVID and act accordingly,” he said.

UVa has set up separate units to treat patients with COVID at the hospital, including separate intensive care units. The units are physically distant to help prevent patients who are in the facility for other medical procedures from contracting the virus.

The hospital also restricts visitors to all units to decrease the chances of community transmission of the virus.

“We continue to have restrictions in place and the reason is people could be asymptomatic and be vectors for transmission,” Adams said. “We try to limit exposure as much as possible.”


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