SAN ANTONIO – As many as 250 people could arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on Friday for a 14-day, federally-mandated quarantine as a precaution against the novel coronavirus.
Once they arrive from China, the evacuees will be kept separated at the Gateway Inn and Gateway Villa on the base, fenced off and watched over by U.S. Federal Marshals. The quarantine period, which will begin when their plane leaves China, is based on the approximate period of the disease.
The evacuees are among 1,000 people, which include American citizens, residents, and their family members, who need to return to the United States from China’s Hubei Province, where the new, respiratory illness was first detected. There have been more than 24,000 cases and more than 400 deaths in China, said Captain Jennifer McQuiston, the deputy director of the CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
“So it's safest for these Americans who are healthy and not known to be infected, to be brought home,” McQuiston said during a news conference Thursday morning.
McQuiston, who is the CDC’s lead for JBSA-Lackland’s coronavirus preparation, said the evacuees will pass through Travis Air Force Base in San Francisco, Calif. on their way to JBSA-Lackland. The passengers will be screened again during that stop, she said, and anyone who has symptoms will stay at that base.
“So it's actually very unlikely that on the flight that lands here, there will be somebody with active signs of illness,” McQuiston said.
While they are under quarantine at JBSA-Lackland, McQuiston said the evacuees would be checked for illness daily.
“And if anyone is found ill, they're going to be immediately transported to a local hospital for isolation with conditions that will help prevent spread,” she said.
McQuiston would not say which area hospitals might receive potential patients.
Though the virus has mostly affected China, there have been confirmed cases in 27 other countries. The Associated Press reports that there have been more than 28,000 cases and more than 560 deaths globally.
There have been only 12 cases of the coronavirus in the United States - none of them fatal or in Texas.
People with underlying health issues appeared to be the most severely affected, McQuiston said.
“I do believe that the case fatality rate for this virus seems low, seems fairly reassuringly low, but it’s not zero. There are people who do develop serious illness. And there have been, as you mentioned, over 400 deaths. So it’s something very important to watch,” McQuiston said.