SAN ANTONIO – Seven Americans passengers who left the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan Sunday and were charted to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland this morning tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to the U.S. State Department.
In a Monday news conference, U.S. officials said seven of the 151 evacuees that traveled on the plane to San Antonio were isolated due to a positive lab test. The seven passengers were then taken to the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center in Omaha. That means only one known coronavirus patient remains in San Antonio (or Texas) — at the Methodist Hospital | Texsan in Balcones Heights — while 235 are in quarantine at Lackland.
Two additional passengers were placed in isolation due to fever, but they had no other symptoms, the department said.
The rest of the evacuees were not isolated on the flight, which departed Tokyo’s Haneda airport and arrived in San Antonio just before 4 a.m. Monday.
A second plane carried 177 evacuees to the Travis Air Force Base in Northern California. Of those evacuees, seven tested positive for isolated coronavirus, according to the department. Three people who tested postive, along with their spouses, were transported to the Omaha facility. The remaining four people were hospitalized near Travis.
An additional three were isolated for fever during the flight.
The passengers will remain at the bases for two weeks while under quarantine.
Japanese troops helped transport 338 U.S. passengers on 14 buses from Yokohama port to the Tokyo airport, Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono tweeted. Around 60 Americans who were hospitalized with coronavirus or chose to stay on the ship remain in Japan.
The U.S. said it arranged for the evacuation because people on the Diamond Princess were at a high risk of exposure to the new virus that’s been spreading in Asia. For the departing Americans, the evacuation cut short a 14-day quarantine that began aboard the cruise ship Feb. 5.
The State Department announced later that 14 of the evacuees received confirmation they had the virus but were allowed to board the flight because they had no symptoms. They were being kept isolated from other passengers on the flight, the U.S. State and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.
San Antonio saw its first case of the coronavirus on Thursday, when an evacuee from Wuhan, China tested positive for the virus. The person is being treated at Methodist Hospital | Texsan in Balcones Heights.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in a statement Monday that the risk of locals contracting the virus remains low.
“Our extensive coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control, Joint Base San Antonio and our other state and local partners has gone according to plan,” he said in a statement on Monday. “As of today, the risk to the general public of contracting COVID-19 continues to remain low. Every precaution has been taken to keep the public isolated from these travelers who are in a precautionary quarantine and any travelers who have shown symptoms of the virus. Our residents should continue to go about their lives.”
The Centers for Disease Control said passengers who display symptoms will be transported to an off-base hospital
“CDC is fully responsible for all aspects of the quarantine operation, and DoD personnel will have no contact with these passengers,” the agency said in a news release Monday. “Every precaution to ensure proper isolation and community protection measures are being taken. The safety and security of our service members and their families remain our highest priority.”