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WATCH: Dozens of coronavirus evacuees arrive at San Antonio airport after being released from quarantine

The evacuees arrived at JBSA-Lackland from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Feb.

SAN ANTONIO – More than 120 evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship are being released from quarantine at JBSA-Lackland on Tuesday, San Antonio city officials said.

The evacuees, American citizens who have been symptom-free for 14 days, are being released after finishing their quarantine for COVID-19 coronavirus “in an orderly way to minimize potential exposure to the San Antonio community.”

Dozens of the evacuees were bused to the San Antonio International Airport around 1 p.m. Tuesday. They were dropped off in the main passenger loading zone and escorted with their luggage to the ticket counter.

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The release, originally scheduled for Monday, was delayed after the City of San Antonio sought a temporary restraining order in federal court to prevent them from being released into the community until a different protocol was established. That court filing was denied on Monday evening, clearing the way for their release.

Passengers who developed symptoms during the quarantine and tested positive for coronavirus are not being released Tuesday and will remain in isolation until they are “free from symptoms and have two negative tests within 24 hours apart to meet the criteria for release.”

“As mayor of this city, my foremost concern is preventing the spread of the coronavirus to the local community,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “I’m pleased that the CDC has made changes, and I’m comfortable that the plan as presented will minimize the risk of exposure."

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Buses are transporting passengers to the San Antonio International Airport from Lackland Air Force Base “in shifts that correspond with their flight times,” according to the email.

Evacuees being released tested negative for COVID-19 coronavirus
Evacuees being released tested negative for COVID-19 coronavirus (KSAT)

Among the evacuees are several Texas residents who will also be taken to the airport on the buses and will be provided rental cars to drive home, the email states.

“The community can continue to feel confident that the necessary steps are being taken to protect all of us from this virus, and there has not been a case of community transmission. I also want to express our gratitude for the evacuees’ patience as we worked to ensure the utmost safety for everyone involved," Mayor Nirenburg said.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention altered the protocol for release of evacuees over the weekend after an evacuee who tested positive for coronavirus visited North Star Mall.

The modifications to the protocol are:

  • A previously symptomatic quarantine individual will only be released if that person has two sequential negative tests within 24 hours.
  • No person will be released if there are any pending test results.

“The risk to the general public remains low. I want to remind the community that these are individuals who showed no symptoms over the course of the 14-day quarantine. We owe it to our fellow Americans not to stigmatize them and allow them to go back to their homes and families,” said Assistant City Manager Colleen Bridger.

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