SALT LAKE CITY – A man from San Giorgio who has tested positive for coronavirus will be treated at the Intermountain Medical Center in Murray at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The announcement was made on Friday evening and Intermountain Healthcare officials said the patient, Mark Jorgensen, will be housed in “a special unit separate from the hospital and designed for high-level isolation.”
Hospital officials have assured that Jorgensen, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 outside of Utah, poses no threat to public health. Jorgensen arrived at the facility on Friday evening from Travis Air Force Base in California.
Jorgensen was one of three Utahns on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship diagnosed with COVID-19.
At a Friday press conference, officials said Jorgensen hasn’t shown any symptoms of the disease so far and has felt “perfectly normal”, according to Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease doctor with Intermountain Healthcare.
The first Utahn who tested positive for the disease has since tested negative.
“Intermountain will continue to work closely with the CDC and the Utah Department of Health to address this problem and take all precautions to keep the patient, our caregivers and the community safe,” hospital officials said.
Jorgensen did not show any of the symptoms associated with the disease – coughing, shortness of breath and fever – before or after his transfer, which went smoothly, Vento said.
“It’s a step forward,” Mark Jorgensen told KSL on Friday. “I’m just taking it one step at a time.”
The Intermountain Medical Center has an emergency preparedness unit designed specifically to assist patients with emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 or even Ebola.
Jorgensen will be hosted in the EPU, which has highly trained staff who are prepared for this exact scenario, stressed Vento.
His stay at the unit is not indicative of the severity of Jorgensen’s disease – again, he is asymptomatic, but will be treated at the EPU because staff are ready to handle this type of case.
His time in EPU will also help minimize any potential exposure to others.
Once Jorgensen has tested negative for the virus twice, there will be no chance of transmission and he will be discharged and able to return home.
If anything about Jorgensen’s clinical condition changes, doctors will be able to intervene and treat him accordingly, Vento said.
In addition, hospital officials will provide any updates on Jorgensen’s condition in the event of significant changes.
“The risk for Utahns for COVID-19 still remains low,” reiterated Dr Angela Dunn, an epidemiologist in the state of the Utah Department of Health.
Starting next week, the health department will be able to perform COVID-19 tests at the state laboratory, which is expected to significantly reduce the time required for results.
Currently, all tests have been sent to the CDC which extends the waiting period to around three days.
State test results should only take around 24 hours to return, Dunn said.
Jorgensen’s wife, Jerri Jorgensen, is also being treated for COVID-19. She tested positive for the disease before showing symptoms.
Several days after her positive test, she developed symptoms and was taken from the cruise ship to Japan where she was hospitalized on Friday.
The couple has faced ordeal for weeks, but good news has come this week: Jerri Jorgensen has tested negative for the disease and is waiting for more results before he can go home to Utah.
Mark Jorgensen has tested positive within about 10 days of his wife showing symptoms of the disease, Vento said.
Jorgensen, who is considered clinically vulnerable because he has had two kidney transplants, has been extensively tested to ensure that he has no respiratory symptoms.
Vento said that due to the in-depth assessment Jorgensen underwent, officials felt comfortable transferring him to the Utah facility.
“He is a Utah resident, helps him to be closer to his family, closer to home after long labor, his wife is in Japan,” said Vento. “I think it was the right thing to welcome him here and prove that we could take care of him. And we have this extraordinary resource of the emergency preparedness unit.”
Jorgensen hopes that he will be home soon.
“The next stop will be San Giorgio,” he said.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
- To help mitigate the infectious transmission of COVID-19, health officials advise anyone who thinks they have the virus to call their doctor before going to hospital.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often
- Stay home if you feel bad
- Don’t touch your face
- Coughing or sneezing in the elbow or in a handkerchief
Risk and symptoms
- You may be at risk of having COVID-19 if you have recently traveled to mainland China, South Korea or, to a lesser extent, Japan, Italy and Iran.
- Infected patients typically have fever, cough and shortness of breath
contribute: Alex Cabrero, KSL TV
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