Coronavirus evacuee quarantined after arriving in California, health department says

Health officials have issued a quarantine order for one of the passengers who arrived in California yesterday on a flight from Wuhan. The passenger, who is one of nearly 200 Americans evacuated from the coronavirus epicenter, had attempted to leave the March Air Reserve Base, officials said.

“Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser issued the order requiring the person to stay for the entire incubation period unless otherwise cleared,” a news release from the Riverside County Health Department said. “This action was taken as a result of the unknown risk to the public should someone leave MARB early without undergoing a full health evaluation.”

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The news release said the person will remain at the base until their health status is confirmed, and that all other passengers currently remain at the base and are continuing to be evaluated.

The passengers, whose flight landed just after 8 a.m. local time after briefly stopping to refuel in Alaska on Tuesday night, had already been screened twice in China and two additional times in Anchorage. The plane was scheduled to arrive at Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino County before it was diverted to the air base in Riverside County for “the logistics that they have.”

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A team made up of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) medical officers dressed in white protective suits met the plane after it landed, and three charter buses were parked ready to transport patients to temporary housing. Passengers were subject to temperature checks and observed for respiratory symptoms. The CDC said anyone exhibiting possible symptoms of the coronavirus would be transported to a hospital for further evaluation.

On Wednesday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, of the CDC, said that all 195 passengers had agreed to stay for up to three days and that those who wanted to leave the base could request to do so, but officials would discuss the request.

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“They are sitting in the middle of a military base,” Dr. Nancy Knight, of the CDC, said. “Any discussion around departure would be just that: It would be a discussion.”

On Thursday, health officials confirmed the first case of person-to-person transmission of the virus in the U.S. The case involves a man in Chicago whose wife had contracted the virus while traveling to Wuhan. He is said to be in stable condition.

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Five others in the U.S., including the man’s wife, have been diagnosed with travel-related cases of coronavirus, while worldwide the number has surpassed over 7,700 cases, and been linked to at least 170 deaths. The number of cases is now great than those confirmed during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, but the death toll remains much lower.