Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center will treat a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, a form of coronavirus, in one of its high-level isolation units.
The hospital announced Friday that it would be taking in Mark Jorgensen, who is from St. George, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requested its help and he asked to be closer to home.
Jorgensen and his wife, Jerri, had been aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where an outbreak of the virus spread. Jerri Jorgensen also has the virus and is being treated in Japan. She recently tested negative for the virus, officials said Friday.
Mark Jorgensen was diagnosed while in quarantine at an Air Force base in California. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Todd Vento told reporters at a Friday news conference that Jorgensen “has never had symptoms throughout this entire course."
He had no cough, no shortness of breath and no fever, Vento said, adding that Jorgensen told him he “felt perfectly normal." The lack of symptoms is why officials determined it would be OK to allow Jorgensen to return to Utah.
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He is now in an isolation unit at Intermountain’s Murray campus, which has its own water and air filtration and independent entrances. A news release states that caring for Jorgensen “is not a public health threat.”
Vento said medical staff will monitor Jorgensen’s health and try to minimize the possibility for exposure and transmission of the virus by using telehealth services — such as video exams — when possible.
Once Jorgensen tests negative for the virus twice within 24 hours apart, he will be allowed to leave treatment, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said.
The hospital’s announcement comes one day after Utah Department of Health officials and hospital executives got together to discuss preparations for when someone in Utah is diagnosed with the virus.
Whenever known patients with the coronavirus enter the state or a new patient tests positive for it, the state is required to notify the public within 24 hours, Dunn said.
She added the risk of contracting coronavirus in Utah remains low, while people who have traveled to mainland China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran have a higher likelihood of getting it.
Three Utahns — including Jorgensen — have tested positive for coronavirus elsewhere following an outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
So far, 11 people in Utah have been tested and none came back as positive. Four cases are still pending.
Because no Utahns have been diagnosed while in the state, Utah counts zero cases of the virus.
Dunn announced Friday that starting next week, the state will be able to use the Utah Public Health Laboratory to test for coronavirus, meaning officials can get results in 24 hours. Previously, samples were sent to the CDC for testing and it took about three days for results.
The World Health Organization reports more than 83,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus worldwide. It says 59 people have been diagnosed in the U.S.
Dunn said people who think they may be infected should contact their health care provider before going to a clinic or emergency room to limit possible exposure.