Two U.S. citizens with the novel coronavirus were transferred to Spokane’s Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Thursday morning, and two more were expected in the afternoon.

Officials with the Spokane Regional Health District and the hospital said in a joint news release they expected up to five total patients.

Multiple people who contracted the novel coronavirus are or will be recovering in an isolation unit at Sacred Heart.

Multiple people who contracted the novel coronavirus are or will be recovering in an isolation unit at Sacred Heart.

Courtesy of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center

The patients’ identities are unknown, as is the severity of their infections.

The patients were transferred from Travis Air Force Base in California and are part of repatriation efforts, meaning they contracted the virus outside of the country.

Bob Lutz, Spokane County health officer for the health district, said their arrival shouldn’t worry the area residents.

“There is no risk to the residents of Spokane County by bringing these individuals into our community for care,” Lutz said. “In general, the risk to the general public of the novel coronavirus, the COVID-19, remains very low.”

Health officials chose the downtown Spokane hospital because of its specialized pathogen unit, which opened in 2017. The unit can treat up to 10 people with highly infectious diseases.

Peg Currie, the hospital’s CEO, says the arrival of the coronavirus patients marks the first time Providence has used the unit.

“I’m here to tell you that we are very confident. The staff’s very competent. We are well prepared to deal with this particular situation here with the new coronavirus,” Currie said. “I’m confident in our team members. I’m confident in our physician providers that we have the ability to safely care for these patients as well as our community,” Currie said.

Sacred Heart is one of 10 specialized pathogen units in the nation, but the only one in the Northwest. Only one other similar unit – in Omaha, Nebraska – is known to have received similar patients.