Man diagnosed with COVID-19 returns home to self-isolate in St. George

Photo illustration of the COVID-19 coronavirus. | Illustration by ktsimage/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Southwest Utah Public Health Department announced Friday that a patient with the coronavirus has been released from a hospital in northern Utah at the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The department said in the release that the patient is under state orders to remain isolated from the community but represents no danger to the community.

St. George News was able to independently confirm with medical officials that the patient is Mark Jorgensen, who had been in the isolated Emergency Preparedness Unit of Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah.

Jorgensen told St. George News he got back home around 4 a.m. Friday morning. The first thing he wanted to do being back in his own home was sleep. But once awake and the sunshine spread over the St. George landscape, he said he truly knew he was home.

Just having a view and be able to look out … and a TV bigger than my phone. Just the energy of home versus a hospital is  kind of nice,” said Jorgensen, who nevertheless will have to be content with seeing the view through a window until he can be cleared of the virus. “It would be nicer if I could eat a steak or go see a movie, but I’ll take it.”

Mark and Jerri Jorgensen were diagnosed with coronavirus while on an Asia vacation aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Jerri Jorgensen returned to St. George Wednesday after being declared virus-free in Japan

David Heaton, spokesperson for SWUPHD, said the CDC has decided the standard procedure will be that patients that have the virus but have no symptoms, like a fever or respiratory distress, will be allowed to return home and self-quarantine, rather than taking up a hospital bed.

Jerri and Mark Jorgensen seen on January 31, 2020 in front of Liberty Square in Taipei, Taiwan during their Asia vacation that culminated in the two St. George residents being quarantined on their Diamond Princess cruise ship and later contracting the COVAD-19 virus. | Photo courtesy Mark Jorgensen, St. George News

“The isolating at home actually has been standard procedure in other states and will probably be the norm,” Heaton said. “If you test positive, rather than taking a hospital bed, you will remain home. It’s the CDC directive that if a patient is asymptomatic, it’s OK to isolate at home.”

Jorgensen, who said the move had been in the works for the last two days, will remain in state-ordered self-isolation until he received two negative tests for the virus in 24 hours.

“We have made contact with this patient and have begun our monitoring procedures,” Dr. David Blodgett, SWUPHD health officer, said. “This patient does not pose a risk to the public, and we will continue to work closely with local, state, and federal public health partners to address any future COVID-19 cases in our community.”

Jorgenson understands that with misinformation also being viral, even the reassurances of the top medical experts in the country aren’t enough to alleviate all fear. The Jorgensens have received threats about coming back that have drawn the attention of the St. George Police Department.

“I understand. I get it. And I’m not a threat to the public. I’m not going to go anywhere. They wouldn’t let me come home if I was a threat and this is what they’re going to be doing. They don’t have the capacity in the hospitals.”

Heaton said the public needs to know that in most cases, COVID-19 patients will have few to no symptoms. Those mainly at risk thus far have been the elderly and those with chronic conditions.

“We wouldn’t be surprised if you see more cases, but we want to remind the public that in most cases it will be mild symptoms,” he said. 

Jerri Jorgensen is joined by friends on Thursday, March 6 in St. George, Utah in her first ride since returning home after being declared virus-free. | Photo courtesy of Jerri Jorgensen, St. George News

Jorgensen broadcast a Facebook live video midday Friday, where he introduced a special guest: His wife Jerri.

However, doctors have said they must stay six feet away from each other and must each wear masks when they are in the same room. That made their reunion after 19 days apart bittersweet.

“It was kind of awkward that we haven’t seen each other for three months and she’s home and she backs up and we wave at each other,” Mark Jorgensen said. “But it’s only for a few days.”

According to Jorgensen, his wife is laying down the law. “Put your mask on” is echoing through the Jorgensen home.

“Jerri’s pretty strict about it,” Jorgensen said. “I’m willing to be strict but i can also be lazy.”

The Jorgensens are co-founders of the Desert Solace addiction recovery center in St. George

Jerri Jorgensen put herself into self-imposed isolation despite doctors saying she could not transmit the virus to others since it is not in her system and is likely immune to it now. She did say she would still take to her mountain bike, and that’s just what she did Monday joined by nine supportive friends. 

Heaton said Mark Jorgensen would not be under any kind of guard. Instead, he has signed a state order that he will remain isolated from the public.

“A surveillance team will be contacting the patient daily by phone and also receive information. Trained individuals will be going into his home and testing him,” Heaton said. 

Heaton did not know what measures would be taken if the state order were to be violated.

It is self-done,” Heaton said. “We have voluntary isolation. This is a state-issued order which means someone signs an order it carries a lot of weight.”

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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