A high school student who came to campus from China for Yale’s Model U.N. conference has tested negative for the novel coronavirus strain.
The news, sent to members of the Yale community last Friday, put an end to fears that the virus plaguing China had popped up in the Elm City. At the YMUN conference last week, the high school student had a cough and fever and tested positive for influenza. On Jan. 25, doctors saw the patient in the emergency room of Yale New Haven Hospital and administered a blood test before releasing the individual into the care of their teachers and advisors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, tested the student’s blood for 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus strain that originated from Wuhan. Following the test, the student was put in isolation until the results came back. Meanwhile, the University took precautionary steps to restrict the spread of disease. Last Sunday, members of the Yale facilities team disinfected William L. Harkness Hall, one of the YMUN conference sites.
“This is good news for Connecticut that the second patient has tested negative,” Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Renée Coleman-Mitchell wrote in a Friday press release. “We continue to be vigilant and coordinate a proactive response with local health and medical providers across the state.”
Even so, the negative results come amidst growing concerns about the spreading disease. On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus strain a global health emergency. The death toll has surpassed 300 in mainland China as of Feb. 2, and on Sunday, the Philippines confirmed a fatality — the first recorded death due to coronavirus outside of China.
United States public officials are preparing against potential spread. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont participated in a phone call with the White House and governors across the country to coordinate a national response to the virus’s outbreak. The Connecticut Department of Public Health convened a conference call with state hospitals to offer updates and guidance.
At a Friday press conference at Yale New Haven Hospital, Connecticut State Epidemiologist Matthew Carter told reporters that the CDC had instructed the hospital to prepare for the worst-case scenario — that New Haven experiences sustained community transmission.
Scientists are developing a coronavirus vaccination. But according to Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Health, a potential vaccine will not be deemed safe for at least a year. YNHH is prepared to respond by identifying people infected with coronavirus, tracing who these people may have come into contact with and monitoring these individuals for symptoms.
Carter stressed, however, that the virus remains a low risk, and that drastic measures are not necessary to prevent the virus’ spread. He urged people not to let their fear of the virus morph into prejudice against people from China. Carter connected the stigmatization he sees now with that surrounding the 2003 SARS outbreak.
For example, several private high schools and universities across Connecticut are preventing students who have visited China from attending school for 14 days upon their return, Carter said. The CDC did not recommend this course of action. Additionally, YNHH has received numerous phone calls from New Haven residents reporting on people from China who live and work in the area, though they have not traveled to China recently.
People “need to take a deep breath,” Carter said.
Wuhan is located in Hubei province in China.
Rose Horowitch | rose.horowitch.@yale.edu