SAN ANTONIO – Update:
The Department of Defense has announced Joint Base San Antonio -Lackland’s coronavirus quarantine zone will remain available to patients through mid-March.
The department made the announcement Saturday and said the other three quarantine zones, including Travis Air Force Base in California, Fort Carson in Colorado and the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar, California, will also be available through March 15th.
This comes after the U.S. announced Americans on the Diamond Princess cruise ship are expected to come to San Antonio for a 14-day coronavirus quarantine. Others will go to TAFB in California.
The Department of Health and Human Services says they are in support of U.S. citizens returning from Japan that are currently aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
In part, DHHS says the U.S. government, “recommends that U.S. citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring" to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A total of 400 U.S. citizens are on board the cruise ship and those that return to the U.S. will be required to undergo a 14-day federal quarantine, according to DHHS.
The citizens will be housed in two existing federal quarantine sites - one at the Travis Air Force Base in California and the other at Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland.
It’s currently unknown how many of these passengers will come to San Antonio or when they will arrive.
Officials say passengers will be monitored during the flight to TAFB, where they will be screened for the novel coronavirus, officials say.
Any of those passengers that are taken to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland will be monitored again during that flight as well and will be screened upon arriving in Texas, according to DHHS.
“This is an evolving situation and every day we learn more about this virus. We continue to believe the risk of exposure to novel coronavirus 2019 to the general public is currently low. The U.S. Government is taking these measures to fully assess and care for these repatriated Americans to protect them, their loved ones, and their communities. We are deeply grateful to the government of Japan for their extraordinary care and hospitality and their assistance facilitating the care and return of our citizens,” DHHS said, in part, in a statement.
The DOD says through the extended availability of the four quarantine housing facilities, it will also provide equipment for “passenger and cargo handling, a facility for briefing passengers, office space for 50 HHS personnel and equipment and linens and bedding as available."
DHHS will provide and arrange custodial services and grounds maintenance, according to the DOD.
Contact with those in quarantine will also be minimized, per the DOD in a statement:
“No DOD civilian employees, military personnel, or contractor personnel will be involved in these services. DOD personnel will not have contact with evacuees and will minimize contact with personnel supporting the isolation/quarantine. HHS will ensure that no evacuated personnel are transferred to any DOD installation if they are infected or ill. Any evacuees who are symptomatic or become symptomatic will be transferred to an off-base local civilian medical facility. The department continues to work closely with its interagency partners, while monitoring the situation. DOD has assessed this support will not negatively impact readiness or critical operations.”
We’ll bring more details as they become available.
Some American passengers aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship are headed to Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland in the coming days to continue to be monitored for the novel coronavirus, according to the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan and the Wall Street Journal.
It’s currently unknown how many of those people will come to San Antonio after stopping in California.
A city source confirmed to KSAT 12 on Saturday that Joint Base San Antonio - Lackland is anticipating an unknown number of people to arrive.
Citing a Center for Disease Control and Prevention official, WSJ reported late Friday night that “about 380 Americans and their families on the ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, will be offered seats on two State Department-organized planes flying back to the U.S.”
Any passengers that show symptoms of the virus won’t be allowed on the flight, the Journal reported, according to Henry Walke, director of the CDC’s Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections.
A letter from the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Japan sent to the passengers reads as follows: “The aircraft will arrive in Japan the evening of February 16. Buses will move you and your belongings from the ship to the aircraft. Passengers will be screened for symptoms and we are working with our Japanese partners to ensure that any symptomatic passengers receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight. The aircraft will land in the United States at Travis Air Force Base in California. Some passengers will then continue onward to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.”
KSAT has reached out to the city, military and local health officials for more details and we’ll bring you more information here and on KSAT 12.
The letter continued: “Travelers returning to the United States from high-risk areas are required to undergo quarantine. Accordingly, you will need to undergo further quarantine of 14 days when you arrive in the United States. We understand this is frustrating and an adjustment, but these measures are consistent with the careful policies we have instituted to limit the potential spread of the disease.”
Thousands of passengers were quarantined on the ship on Feb. 5 after a passenger who had already gotten off contracted the virus. More than 200 passengers, including dozens of Americans, have already been moved off the ship for treatment after contracting the virus, according to the New York Times.
That newspaper reported that Americans on the ship would be evacuated but did not mention where they would end up.
According to the CDC, 15 cases of Coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States, including one in San Antonio.
An evacuee from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, is being treated at Methodist Hospital | Texsan in Balcones Heights.
Officials said the patient, who was quarantined at Joint Base San Antonio — Lackland, was found to have a fever before being privately escorted to a hospital in an ambulance equipped with protective coverings and a highly-trained staff, wearing protective gear.
Methodist Healthcare said the patient tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, but as of Thursday, is stable with mild symptoms. The risk to the public remains low, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Thursday.
Globally, more than 60,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 1,500 have died.
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