VA up to at least 11 patients who tested positive for coronavirus

A researcher with the Emerging Infectious Disease branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research conducts studies in order to find a solution for the coronavirus, March 3, 2020.


By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 12, 2020

Note: This article has been corrected.

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has at least 11 coronavirus patients in its care, with 9 of them waiting for official confirmation that they have contracted the illness, a VA official confirmed Thursday.

Some veterans are quarantined to their home instead of getting in-patient care. However, the department will not comment on how it decides whether coronavirus patient stays in a VA facility or is sent home. 

The two confirmed cases are being treated as inpatients at the VA in Palo Alto, Calif., and the VA Southern Nevada Health Care System in Las Vegas. Three others who tested positive for the illness but have not been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans, the VA Portland Health Care System in Oregon and the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle.

The remaining six patients are being quarantined at home awaiting CDC confirmation after testing positive at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System, the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Denver, the VA Portland Health Care System in Oregon, the Fresno VA Medical Center in California and the Atlanta VA Health Care System.

The list was provided by Christina Mandreucci, a VA spokeswoman. It is unclear what specific care the patients at home are receiving, and she cited privacy concerns for not revealing details. The department will not release details on how its patients contracted the virus or their age range also citing privacy concerns, despite that information being available for patients outside the VA's care.

The VA said it is updating Congress daily on its efforts to curtail the disease as cases balloon across the country. However, Congress and officials with the department are not making those briefings public and have offered scarce details on its efforts. In February, VA officials said they are confident the agency is prepared for an outbreak and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie declined additional resources from Congress. 

As the VA prepares for potential coronavirus cases across the country, it is screening all staff and patients who show symptoms of the virus. On Tuesday, the department banned virtually all visitors from its nursing homes and spinal cord injury centers to protect its most vulnerable patients. 

The VA is tasked with caring for more than 9 million veterans, marking it has the largest health care network in the country. Half of the veterans who use VA services are older than 65, one of the groups most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

As of Thursday afternoon, at least 1,325 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the United States and 38 people have died, according to a count compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Twitter: @StevenBeynon

Correction: A previous version of this story reported the VA has two coronavirus patients in Oklahoma City. A department official said Thursday that the patients were treated for unrelated health issues and were not tested for the coronavirus.

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