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Abbott: Texas is monitoring more than 100 patients quarantined at military base for coronavirus

Gov. Greg Abbott, left, and Dennis Bonnen, right. (Jay Janner/Austin-American Stateman/TNS)

The state is preparing to deal with the spread of the novel coronavirus whether the situation changes from “status quo to extreme pandemic,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday.

“We are preparing for all possible contingencies,” Abbott said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and local providers are contacting and monitoring travelers who return from China, where the outbreak of the virus known as COVID-19 began.

Ten cases of the virus have been confirmed in Texas among Americans who were evacuated from China and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, and then quarantined at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, officials said.

Officials are currently monitoring more than 100 patients at the military base for signs of sickness, but 90 more have been medically cleared and went home last week, said Nancy Knight of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The state’s public health agency is preparing its labs to administer the coronavirus test, though the number of kits the state has on hand it not clear. The tests are being made available through the CDC, DSHS Commissioner John William Hellerstedt said.

Meanwhile, the state has prepared 22 sealed rooms at the Texas center for infectious disease in San Antonio, where patients with minor symptoms or those who are recovering will receive care, Abbott said. And state officials are orchestrating calls with providers and county officials on a weekly basis.

“DSHS is working to ensure high risk populations, including the children, the elderly and those in health care facilities, are prepared and properly care for,” he said.

Thousands of travelers are expected to descend on Austin in March for the annual South by Southwest festival. When asked about precautions, Abbott said any decision about the event would be left to local health officials.

The virus, first reported late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan, can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. The sickness has been blamed for some 2,800 deaths worldwide.

There have been no confirmed cases in Dallas County, though several possible cases have been investigated in Texas, including in a student at Baylor University and another at Texas A&M University, both of whom tested negative.

Sixty people have tested positive for the virus in the United States, and most of them had traveled outside the country, according to the CDC.

A California woman confirmed to have the virus this week is thought to be the first in the country to contract it with no known connection to another sick person or travel abroad.

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© 2020 The Dallas Morning News