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Reporting delay was unacceptable

That we now have learned four employees at the Teramana Cancer Center have tested positive for the coronavirus and the facility has been closed while it is disinfected is another sad chapter in the Tri-State Area’s fight against the spread of COVID-19.

That it took three days for that information to be made public is unacceptable.

Located on the campus of Trinity Medical Center West, the center offers world-class cancer treatment through a collaborative effort among Trinity, the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Allegheny Health Network.

According to a timeline released during a Monday news conference, a positive test was reported last Wednesday, 12 days after an infected individual, a UPMC employee, had gone into a self-imposed period of isolation. On Friday, UPMC and Trinity decided to close the medical oncology side of the operation to allow staff members who might have been exposed to the virus to self-quarantine.

Later that day, Allegheny Health, the radiation oncology partner, and Trinity made the decision to close the entire center to allow for a thorough cleaning with infrared technology.

During the weekend, the Jefferson County Health Department was able to connect two additional cases of the coronavirus to the center. On Sunday UPMC confirmed three of its employees had tested positive and on Monday it was learned that a fourth person connected with the center had tested positive.

Our thoughts are certainly with those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and those who likely were exposed, especially the individuals who were undergoing treatment at the facility and are even more susceptible to infections because of their diminished immune systems.

And, it appears the situations surrounding the center were handled correctly and professionally from a medical standpoint.

Decisions were made about how to protect patients and staff, Dr. Mark Trombetta, the center’s medical director, explained Monday.

There’s a bigger question, though: Why did it take so long for those involved to notify the media and the general public? Remember, the decisions to close the facility were made Friday — and members of the media were not informed about what had been happening until Sunday afternoon.

As we have written, information is an important component for area residents as they continue to protect themselves against the virus.

And, while we agree with Trombetta when he said the first priority of those involved was to protect patients and staff, we have to disagree with him when he said that notifying the media should not also have been a priority.

Expediting the release of that information likely would have eased the efforts of those connected with the center and the health department as they worked to identify those who had been directly or indirectly affected.

The delay, however, only led to the spread of rumors throughout the community and helped build suspicions among the public.

All involved — the health department, Trinity, UPMC and Allegheny Health — were wrong to not provide the information in a more timely fashion.

We expect better from them in the future.

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