Jennifer Bailer, Butler County health commissioner, says tests on two Miami University students came back negative for the coronavirus. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Official: ‘A lot of concern’ remains about coronavirus after Butler County negative tests

Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Health director, said after the agency announced Sunday night the results of the tests that no people in the state are under investigation for the coronavirus.

“What we are doing in Ohio is working,” Acton said Sunday night at a press conference in Oxford that ended a week of uncertainty around campus.

ODH received results of the three-part test — a blood draw, a nasal swab and a mucus sample — from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon, Acton said. A few hours later, a mass communication went out to the Oxford campus.

Acton called the two students, who had traveled to China and presented flu-like symptoms on Jan. 27, the first day of classes, “victims of circumstances,” and they were released from isolation in their residence on Sunday.

“They are thrilled,” Acton said of the students the university has declined to identify, except to say they traveled to China during Miami’s six-week break between semesters.

Jennifer Bailer, Butler County Health Department commissioner, said she had been “hoping and praying” for negative results. She said the public health agencies benefited from the students’ prompt actions when they reported their illness to Student Health Services.

“They did everything right,” she said. “The system worked.”

The students have been cleared to “conduct normal activities,” Bailer said.

Some Miami students who were in China have not yet completed the 14-day incubation period and are being self-monitored.

Despite the negative test results, Miami University has restricted university-sponsored travel to China for all faculty, staff and students for several weeks. Three summer China programs this year have also been redirected, one Miami student studying abroad in China has returned to the Oxford campus and another student who planned to study in China this semester is staying in Oxford, officials said.

Area hospitals have started asking patients showing flu-like symptoms about their recent travel history, and airlines are restricting flights into China, where the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in December.

Only a handful of American airports are permitted to receive flights from China. The scenes were described as confusing on Monday as the first federally mandated quarantine in more than a half-century took effect.

Americans on some flights from China could be monitored and isolated for up to two weeks on American military bases, according to the New York Times.

China’s Health Commission reported on Sunday that there were 475 recoveries and 361 deaths nationwide, theTimes reported. A total of 349 people died in mainland China during the SARS outbreak, it reported.

Acton said the novel disease is evolving and changing “hour by hour.”

Melanie Amato, ODH press secretary, said the coronavirus scare in Oxford was “a great example” on how partnership works between the state, the Hamilton and Middletown city health departments and the communities.

“Ohio will remain prepared and we will continue to closely monitor the situation in conjunction with CDC and are ready to respond if necessary,” she said.

On Sunday night and they did earlier in the week during another press conference, health and university officials urged the public to show compassion toward international students. Acton said there was “a huge need” for empathy.

Miami has 17,327 undergraduate and 2,607 graduate students on its Oxford campus. Students from China are the university’s largest population of international students with 2,334 enrolled.

About a dozen Miami University Regional campus students in Hamilton and Middletown list their home residence near the area in Wuhan City where the outbreak began in December, according to school officials. Miami officials said Chinese students on both of those campuses have been checked and no issues have been reported.

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