(CNN)A patient being treated for novel coronavirus at UC Davis Medical Center was admitted to the facility last week but wasn’t tested until Sunday, according to a letter sent to UC Davis staff and obtained by CNN.
The patient, a Solano County resident, is one of the 60 confirmed cases of the virus in the US, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday. Forty-two cases are former passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the site of a recent virus outbreak. The other 15 were either travelers coming back from China or spouses of travelers. Three others were repatriated from China.
The California case may be the first US instance of the virus being transmitted by “community spread,” meaning the patient wouldn’t have had “relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
How the person was exposed to the virus is still unknown, the CDC said. The agency said it has not yet ruled out that the patient was exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.
The patient was transferred to the medical center from another Northern California hospital Febuary 19 with a suspected viral infection. UC Davis requested testing for novel coronavirus by the CDC, because, the letter says, neither the Sacramento County nor the California Department of Public Health are conducting testing.
“Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered,” the letter says. “UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.
The CDC ordered testing on Sunday and results came back positive Wednesday, the letter said.
“This is not the first COVID-19 patient we have treated, and because of the precautions we have had in place since this patient’s arrival, we believe there has been minimal potential for exposure here at UC Davis Medical Center,” the center said.
In the letter, the medical center also asked a small number of employees to stay at home and monitor their temperature.
If the California case does turn out to be community spread, hospital staff will need to alter the way they evaluate sick patients, one health care executive said.
Hospitals receiving patients with flu-like symptoms have been asking people to detail their travel history or exposure to anyone who has recently traveled, Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, the chief clinical officer and executive vice president of Providence St. Joseph Health, told CNN’s Don Lemon.
“Now we’re going to have to be thinking, how do we change that strategy? Who all do we need to be testing for coronavirus? Right now,