The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four new domestic COVID-19 cases associated with a cluster infection at a Taoyuan hospital.
Since the first case was identified on Tuesday last week, five healthcare workers — two doctors and three nurses — at the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital have tested positive for the virus.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that two of the four new cases are the husband and daughter of a nurse (case No. 863) who had earlier been confirmed to have COVID-19.
The husband (case No. 864) and daughter (case No. 865) developed symptoms, including a cough and runny nose, and were tested on Monday, Chen said.
The nurse and her husband had visited Taoyuan Nanmen Market (桃園南門市場) between 11:30am and 12:15pm on Wednesday last week, and between 11:40am and 12:35pm on Saturday last week, Chen said, adding that other public spaces that the husband visited were still being confirmed.
The daughter, an employee at fast-food chain MOS Burger’s Taoyuan MRT Station A7 Store (桃捷A7店), was at work from Saturday to Monday, but the CECC is still checking what times she was there, Chen said.
People who have visited these locations during those periods should practice self-health management, wear a mask and seek medical attention immediately, but refrain from taking public transportation, if they develop COVID-19-like symptoms before Feb. 1, the CECC said.
A third case is a nurse (case No. 868), who is in her 30s, works in the same ward as case No. 863, and had tested negative three times on Tuesday last week, Friday and Sunday, Chen said.
However, on Monday, the nurse developed a fever, an itchy throat and a headache, and tested positive yesterday, he said.
The fourth case is a Vietnamese woman (case No. 869), who is in her 40s and works as a caregiver for a patient at the hospital, he said, adding that contact tracing is being conducted.
So far, nine people associated with the hospital have tested positive, including six who likely caught the virus at the hospital, he said.
Chen also announced the implementation of additional measures to contain the spread of the disease at the hospital.
Photo copied by Wei Chin-yun, Taipei Times
Under an elevated quarantine standard, 353 hospital employees have been put under 14-day isolation, he said, adding that they are staying isolated in centralized quarantine facilities or in single rooms in the hospital.
Moreover, 120 inpatients were referred to other hospitals yesterday, while another 100 inpatients are to be moved out today, he said.
The confirmed cases worked on the hospital’s sixth, seventh, ninth and 10th stories, which have been placed on high alert, he said.
Photo: Lu Chun-wei, Taipei Times
Once patients have been cleared out of these floors and a thorough disinfection conducted, hospital employees under isolation can return for centralized quarantine, he said.
This would also give the hospital’s healthcare workers a temporary break and time to isolate, he added.
The CECC on Monday set up a command center at the hospital, which has seven divisions, said Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), who is also the deputy chief of the CECC’s medical response division.
This includes a care division that makes daily phone calls to infected patients, their family members and hospital employees under isolation, to care for their mental and physical condition, he said.
Several healthcare professionals have expressed their frustration about the situation, but “they are all doing OK,” he said.
Asked if the cluster infections at the hospital could have been caused by environmental contamination, Chen said that the CECC has not ruled it out, adding that it has not discovered any evidence to support it, but the incubation period of the cases has shortened.
CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is also the CECC spokesman, said that the incubation periods of the latest cluster cases were two to four days, while that of previously confirmed cases were mainly five to seven days.
The number of confirmed cases has exceeded the CECC’s prediction, but they are still close contacts of the index case, meaning the source of infection is identifiable, he said.
Although family members and a close contact of the hospital’s healthcare workers were infected, there is no sign of community spread yet, he added.
The CECC has proactively imposed multiple preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, and the situation is still under control, he said.
Following a request by the CECC, the military dispatched its 33 Chemical Warfare Group to the hospital to conduct general disinfection.
MOS Food Services, Taiwan said in a statement it would temporarily suspend services at its A7 store, and that staff at the store have been asked to undergo isolation.
Taiwan yesterday also reported two new imported cases.
A Taiwanese woman developed COVID-19 related symptoms in the US, returned to Taiwan on Sunday and was tested at the airport, which returned positive yesterday.
The other case is an Indonesian fisher who arrived in Taiwan on Jan. 5, and whose test result came back positive yesterday.
From 6:30pm to 10pm yesterday, the Taipei 101 Building last night displayed a series of messages to thank the nation’s health workers, offering appreciation and support to the “COVID-19 heroes.”
The other messages read: “Go, health workers,” “Take care of yourselves, too,” “We’re in this together,” “Caring for each other,” “Working together as a whole” and “Help protect Taiwan.”
Additional reporting by Lu Chun-wei and staff writer
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