Health Dept.: Local cases traveled to New Orleans together

By Updated: March 14, 2020 6:17 PM CT | Published: March 12, 2020 7:04 PM CT
<strong>Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter gives an update about the coronavirus on Wednesday, March 11, at the Shelby County Emergency Management and Homeland Security office.&nbsp;State and local health officials confirmed a second Shelby County coronavirus patient Thursday, March 12, and said the newest patient and the first knew one another and had traveled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.</strong> (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter gives an update about the coronavirus on Wednesday, March 11, at the Shelby County Emergency Management and Homeland Security office. State and local health officials confirmed a second Shelby County coronavirus patient Thursday, March 12, and said the newest patient and the first knew one another and had traveled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)

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State and local health officials confirmed a second Shelby County coronavirus patient Thursday, March 12, and said the newest patient and the first knew one another and had traveled to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Director Alisa Haushalter of the Shelby County Health Department said during an afternoon update that the two may have contracted COVID-19 in New Orleans or one could have given it to the other. The health department is still gathering information.

“The second person was quarantined from the time we knew they were in contact (with the first confirmed case),” she said.

Confirmation of the second local case brought to 18 the statewide total so far. 


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The health department coordinated with the health care provider to ask for testing for the second patient. The test result was positive, and that person was placed in isolation at home Thursday. The testing was ordered after classic symptoms were noted.

The first individual is doing well and is still in isolation at Baptist Memorial Hospital, Haushalter said.

Haushalter also talked during the briefing about the availability of testing and how the tests are conducted.

She said all who have needed testing have been able to get it, and that testing is available seven days a week using state criteria.

Before testing, people are questioned about their travel history. Those who have symptoms are sometimes tested for flu and other viruses before being given the COVID-19 test, Haushalter said.


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“Because this is a new virus, the test is a new test,” she said. “It has to be determined to be both valid and reliable first. Then the laboratory that runs the test has to be approved as having run valid and reliable tests.”

The first testing laboratory in the case of the coronavirus test  was at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Then state laboratories receive permission to run the tests, Haushalter said. And while the county health department is independent, health providers may go directly to the state.

When an individual is tested, the specimen is flown or driven to Nashville. If it arrives in the morning, the test will be run by 1 p.m. Tests that arrive in the evening are run the following morning.

Haushalter said private laboratories are trying to get permission to run tests themselves. LabCorps is able to do so, but she was unsure if that lab is running tests yet. Quests and AEL are trying to get permission as well.

“I anticipate in the coming weeks, there will be more opportunity to do testing locally,” she said.

Haushalter was unsure of how many tests had been checked by the state since private labs, hospital-run labs and the Veterans Administration conduct their own testing. She said some individuals being monitored might be veterans, but she doesn’t have information that confirms that belief.

Once the virus is in a community, Haushalter said cases should be identified quickly.

“As soon as they’re identified, isolating those individuals, identifying contacts and quarantining those” will keep the virus within a small “cluster,” she said.

Many events announced postponement Thursday. Shelby County Schools announced it is closing effective Friday until March 30, and that system consulted with Haushalter.

She said SCS provides food and additional services to some of its students and that the health department will provide advice when requested. She advised businesses and event planners.

“Each organization has to make decisions on their operations and constituents they serve,” she said.

Topics

Shelby County Health Department Mardi Gras coronavirus Alisa Haushalter

Abigail Warren

Abigail Warren  is a lifelong resident of Shelby County and a graduate of the University of Memphis.  She has worked for several local publications and covers the suburbs for The Daily Memphian.


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