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St. Jude limits visits, Vanderbilt cancels classes as virus precautions

Associated Press • Mar 9, 2020 at 10:57 PM

MEMPHIS — St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is limiting visits, calling off conferences and campus tours, and restricting patient and family events after the new coronavirus was confirmed in the county that includes Memphis, Tennessee.

The children’s cancer research hospital released a list of virus-related policies after Shelby County health officials said Sunday that one person who traveled out of state but not out of the country had contracted the new coronavirus.

The patient is undergoing treatment in isolation at a hospital. Officials said the patient was in good condition. Three other cases have been confirmed in Middle Tennessee, including one announced Monday by the state, which is no longer distributing county information for coronavirus cases out of privacy concerns, Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Hodgen Mainda said.

Also Monday, the state insurance department requested that Tennessee insurance carriers waive coronavirus testing costs and refrain from using preauthorization requirements as a reason for not providing testing and treatment.

The state has confirmed four people have tested positive for the coronavirus out of 49 tests performed so far, with at least 165 additional tests available and more supplies coming in, state Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said Monday.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

Based in Memphis, St. Jude is considered a leading researcher of cancer and other life-threatening diseases that affect children. Families with children who are patients at the hospital never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press on Monday, St. Jude said only invited visitors who have been screened for travel history and evidence of a possible infection will be allowed to enter the campus.

The hospital is barring visitors who have traveled to the Seattle or Tacoma, Washington, metropolitan area during the last 14 days. Parents of patients are still allowed in the facility, as long as they meet the guidelines.

“Do not come on campus if you are sick,” the hospital’s statement said.

St. Jude also has canceled patient and family events involving non-employees in the hospital or in housing facilities. It also canceled a handful of symposiums and conferences.

Late Monday Vanderbilt University in Nashville canceled classes for the rest of the week. The university tweeted, “Due to new information received March 9, and based on our desire to protect the health and safety of our community from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the university is cancelling classes for the remainder of this week.”

It also said that beginning March 16 through at least March 30, the university is “suspending all in-person classes and is moving to distance and other alternative learning options.”

Meanwhile, the Shelby County school system said Monday that an employee who came in contact with the county’s coronavirus patient has been quarantined for two weeks. A faculty member at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis also is under quarantine after coming into contact with the Shelby County patient, the school said in a statement.

Republican state Sen. Rusty Crowe does not require quarantine because he has shown no symptoms since attending the Conservative Political Action Conference, said Adam Kleinheider, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Randy McNally’s office in Nashville.

The U.S. Capitol’s attending physician said Monday that “several” members of Congress are in good health after having contact with a person who attended CPAC two weeks ago and who subsequently developed the coronavirus.

Elsewhere in Nashville, property managers for the AT&T Building — known as the “Batman” building because its two towers resemble the super hero’s mask — said they learned from local health officials that there was a confirmed coronavirus case by one of the building’s occupants, according to their note posted on the building and dated Sunday. Local health officials declined to confirm the case’s location, citing patient privacy laws.

The 617-foot (188-meter), 33-story downtown skyscraper is being cleaned but remains open, CBRE Property Management spokeswoman Shannon Klosterman said in a statement.

The U.S. death toll from the virus has reached at least 22 and the number of worldwide cases has risen above 111,000.

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AP reporters Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise contributed from Nashville.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

An earlier version of this report incorrectly said the AT&T Building in Nashville had been closed.

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