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St. George man being treated for coronavirus at Utah’s Intermountain Medical Center

By Lauren Bennett, KSL.com | Updated - Feb. 28, 2020 at 10:40 p.m. | Posted - Feb. 28, 2020 at 6:44 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — A St. George man who tested positive for coronavirus will be treated at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray at the request of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The announcement was made Friday evening and Intermountain Healthcare officials said the patient, Mark Jorgensen, will be housed in a "special unit that’s separate from the hospital and designed for high-level isolation."

Hospital officials assured that Jorgensen, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 outside of Utah, does not pose a public health threat. Jorgensen arrived at the facility Friday evening from Travis Air Force Base in California.

Jorgensen was one of three Utahns aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

At a Friday news conference, officials said Jorgensen has not displayed any symptoms of the disease so far and felt "perfectly normal," according to Dr. Todd Vento, infectious disease physician with Intermountain Healthcare.

The first Utahn who tested positive for the disease has since tested negative.

"Intermountain will continue to work closely with the CDC and Utah Department of Health to address this issue and take every precaution to keep the patient, our caregivers, and the community safe," hospital officials said.

Jorgensen has shown none of the symptoms associated with the disease — cough, shortness of breath and fever — before or after his transfer, which went smoothly, Vento said.

“It’s one step closer,” Mark Jorgensen told KSL on Friday. “I’m just kind of taking it a step at a time.”

Intermountain Medical Center has an emergency preparedness unit, which is specifically designed to care for patients with emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19 or even Ebola.

Jorgensen will be housed in the EPU, which is equipped with a highly trained staff that is prepared for this exact scenario, Vento stressed.

His stay at the unit is not indicative of the severity of Jorgensen’s illness — again, he is asymptomatic, but will be treated at the EPU because the staff are prepared to handle this type of case.

His time in the EPU will also help minimize any potential exposure to others.

Once Jorgensen tests negative for the virus twice, there will be zero chance of transmission and he will be discharged and able to return home.

If anything about Jorgensen’s clinical status changes, physicians will be able to intervene and treat him accordingly, Vento said.

Additionally, hospital officials will provide any updates on Jorgensen’s condition if any significant changes occur.

"The risk for Utahns for COVID-19 still remains low," Dr. Angela Dunn, Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist, reiterated on Friday.

Starting next week, the health department will be able to run COVID-19 tests at the state lab, which is expected to significantly reduce the time it takes for results to come in.

Currently, all tests have been sent to the CDC which extends the waiting period to about three days.

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Results for tests run in-state are expected to only take about 24 hours to come back, Dunn said.

Jorgensen’s wife, Jerri Jorgensen, is also being treated for COVID-19. She tested positive for the disease before she displayed symptoms.

Several days after her positive test, she developed symptoms and was taken from the cruise ship to Japan where she remained hospitalized on Friday.

The couple has been dealing with the ordeal for weeks but good news came this week — Jerri Jorgensen has tested negative for the illness and is awaiting more test results before she is able to return home to Utah.

Mark Jorgensen tested positive within about 10 days of his wife showing symptoms of the illness, Vento said.

Jorgensen, who is considered medically vulnerable because he’s had two kidney transplants, was tested extensively to guarantee he did not display respiratory symptoms.

Vento said because of the comprehensive evaluation Jorgensen underwent, officials felt comfortable transferring him to the Utah facility.

"He’s a Utah resident, it helps him being closer to his family, closer to home after a long ordeal, his wife being in Japan," Vento said. "I think it was the right thing to welcome him here and show that we could provide care for him. And we have this tremendous resource of the Emergency Preparedness Unit."

Jorgensen hopes that soon he will be home.

“The next stop will be St. George,” he said.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources
Prevention
  • To help mitigate infectious transmission of COVID-19, health care officials advise anyone who thinks they might have the virus to first call their doctor before going to a hospital
  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Stay home if you’re feeling sick
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Cough or sneeze in your elbow or a tissue
Risk and symptoms
  • You could be at risk of having COVID-19 if you’ve recently traveled to mainland China, South Korea or, to a lesser extent, Japan, Italy and Iran
  • Infected patients typically have a fever, cough and shortness of breath

Contributing: Alex Cabrero, KSL TV

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