ASU Coronavirus Patient Cleared, Released from Isolation

A person affiliated with ASU who was infected with coronavirus has been cleared and released from isolation.
A person affiliated with ASU who was infected with coronavirus has been cleared and released from isolation. ASU via Twitter
Almost a month after a 2019 novel coronavirus case was confirmed in Arizona, the once-infected person has been cleared of the virus and released from isolation, public health officials said today.

In a statement released on Twitter at 3 p.m. on Friday, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health said that they had decided, in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to release the individual from isolation.

"The individual, a male with ties to Arizona State University, has received multiple negative tests from CDC and meets the criteria to be released from isolation," public health officials said in the statement.

"We would like to thank this individual for his patience and commitment to public health during his prolonged isolation with very mild illness. There is no risk of COVID-19 to the community from this individual, and we encourage his friends, family, and community to support him as he transitions back to his everyday activities," the statement said.

The ASU member's weeks-long isolation began on January 26, when the Arizona Department of Health Services first confirmed that a case of the deadly virus had reached Arizona.

Since then, the Arizona Department of Health Services worked with ASU and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health to contact everyone the infected person had close contact with, and get those people tested and monitored for any symptoms.

Earlier this week, public health officials told the Arizona Republic the likelihood of Arizona's only coronavirus case having been passed onto others from the ASU member was "almost zero," since everyone that person had come into close contact with had been monitored and tested appropriately.

"We are in a position where we can say with confidence there has been no spread from this case," Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director of disease control for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told the Republic.

The former coronavirus patient was in his 20s and had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the viral outbreak began. He does not live in university housing, had only a mild case, and was never hospitalized.

Panic over the spread of coronavirus continues to grow globally, but the situation in Maricopa County at least is now resolved. Before the ASU member was cleared, 34 people in the United States were infected with the virus as of 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Friday. Over 2,200 people have died from the 2019 novel coronavirus. Over 76,000 have been infected, mostly in China.

The positive case at ASU created some hysteria at the campus, with students arriving to class wearing surgical masks and tens of thousands of people signing a petition to cancel classes. Meanwhile, seasonal influenza has killed an estimated 10,000 Americans since October. Asian students at ASU said the indiscriminate fear of the virus has prompted many racist encounters.

"This individual has tested negative for novel coronavirus and is no longer infectious according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," and ASU spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Phoenix New Times regarding the individual's potential return to campus. "This individual has been determined to be completely safe to reintegrate back into the community. In addition, all close contacts of the individual have passed the 14-day monitoring period and have not developed novel coronavirus."
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.