OMAHA, Neb. - The CDC has verified the test results completed Monday by the Nebraska Public Health Lab on 13 individuals being held for coronavirus monitoring and care. Eleven of these individuals have tested positive for COVID-19, while two tested negative.
University of Nebraska Medical Center currently has ten people in the National Quarantine Unit while three are in the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. Most people aren’t showing symptoms of the disease, however several others are exhibiting minor symptoms.
These 13 people are all former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated to the United States via two 747s February 17.
They landed in Omaha on Monday for a 14-day quarantine. Anyone who has a positive test has to have two negative tests 24 hours apart before being released, according to a Nebraska Medicine spokesperson.
The recently opened National Quarantine Unit, on the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine campus, was designed for this purpose – to safely monitor Americans after exposure to an infectious disease. The unit, which has a 20-bed capacity, is strategically located in close proximity to the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, should a higher level of care be needed.
The Nebraska Biocontainment Unit team cared for three patients with Ebola in late 2014.
“We were there for Ebola, we were there for the rescued Americans now being monitored at Camp Ashland and we’re going to be there for these American citizens as well,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha. “Because we are one of the world leaders in this arena, we were asked by our federal partners, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to rise to the challenge when our nation once more critically needs our expertise. Clearly, this is again, one of those times.”
Like the Americans who were staying at Camp Ashland, the Americans from the cruise ship arrived at a remote and isolated aircraft parking area at Eppley Airfield and did not enter the terminal. They boarded a bus and were driven straight to the National Quarantine Unit. Flight operations at Eppley Airfield were unaffected.
The 57 Americans at Camp Ashland were all sent home on Thursday after nobody tested positive over the 14-day quarantine period.
“We understand that this news might make some people living in the Omaha area uneasy,” said James Linder, MD, CEO of Nebraska Medicine. “I want to assure everyone that our Nebraska Medicine/UNMC colleagues are among the best in the world at handling situations like these. In many instances, they’ve written the book on the most effective methods of quarantine and treatment. The Nebraska method is the tested standard.”
According to Nebraska Medicine, while this disease has been more infectious than the SARS outbreak in 2003, it has been far less lethal. Experts estimate a fatality rate between one and two percent for COVID-19, with the majority of the fatalities being in people with other medical conditions.