Gov. Greg Abbott demands CDC improve protocols after release of San Antonio patient who tested ‘weakly positive’ for coronavirus

Gov. Greg Abbott is briefed on the coronavirus outbreak, in Austin on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune) (Texas Tribune)

Gov. Greg Abbott demanded that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halt the scheduled Monday release of a group of patients being quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base, noting that a day earlier the federal agency released a person who was later found to have a “weakly positive” test result for the new coronavirus.

“What happened in San Antonio and what the CDC did is completely unacceptable,” Abbott said at a press conference Monday morning. “It appears to be a case of negligence with regard to allowing this person who had the coronavirus to leave the Texas Center for Infectious Diseases and go back into the general population.”

Abbott’s office is demanding that people not be allowed to leave quarantine at Lackland “until the CDC can guarantee that they have no trace of coronavirus and pose no threat to the expansion of the coronavirus anywhere in the country.” The CDC did not return a request for comment.

“There were some people who were scheduled to be leaving Lackland Air Force Base today and going back home,” Abbott said. “Our demand and our expectation is those people will not be allowed to go home today.”

Patient with “weakly positive” test for coronavirus was released for a time in San Antonio

Local health agencies are working to identify, contact and test every person who the San Antonio patient came into contact with after leaving quarantine, Abbott said. To prevent another person from being released too soon, Abbott said the CDC should perform an additional test for the virus.

“The protocol before now has been … if there were two consecutive negative tests, meaning that the person was showing no suggestion of having coronavirus, they would be subject to being released,” Abbott said. “That was one of the mistakes here, because what happened here, there was a third test that was conducted on the woman who was released, she was released before the test results came back, that third test showed that she in fact did have the coronavirus, and so our demand in here is that going forward, the CDC will do three tests as opposed to two.”

Abbott's office said the state made its requests in a letter sent to the CDC by John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. At the same time, Abbott said he had a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing the coronavirus response for the White House, and that his office has had multiple discussions with federal staff.

Currently, there are 11 people remaining at the San Antonio quarantine who have tested positive for “very mild cases of the coronavirus,” Abbott said. No one in Texas has tested positive for the virus outside the quarantine.