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CDC Refused to Test First Possible Community-Transmitted Coronavirus Case for Days

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)

The Center for Disease Control confirmed the existence of a coronavirus case in California with “unknown” origins on Wednesday evening, with UC Davis Medical Center revealing that they had requested a test last week, but had been denied by the CDC because “the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria.”

“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown,” the CDC said in a statement. “It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States.”

The patient, who is the 15th confirmed domestic case in the U.S., was transferred to Davis from another Northern California hospital last week. According to a statement from UC Davis health officials, the patient had already been intubated, was on a ventilator and was “given droplet protection orders because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition” when transferred. They added that they had requested testing for coronavirus “upon admission,” but were initially denied.

“We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor the California Department of Public Health is doing testing for coronavirus at this time,” the statement reads. “Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.”

The CDC did end up testing the patient on Sunday, February 23 — after which “the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions, because of our concerns about the patient’s condition.” The positive test result was returned Wednesday.

President Trump announced Wednesday evening in a press conference that Vice President Mike Pence would be leading the U.S. efforts to halt the spread of the virus, after officials Tuesday warned that an outbreak was likely.

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