Judge denies San Antonio’s court filing to prevent release of coronavirus evacuees

It’s unclear when evacuees will be released

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio city attorney’s office has taken legal steps to prevent the potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in the Alamo City by seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) in federal court against federal health officials, officials announced Monday evening.

Everything we know about the coronavirus, public health emergency in San Antonio

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The TRO, which has been denied, sought to prevent the more than 120 people who have completed their 14-day quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland from being released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) until they have been confirmed negative for the virus or have completed a 28-day quarantine, officials said. They were scheduled to be released Monday, but it is still unclear when they will be released.

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The TRO, seeking an emergency injunction, was filed to pause the planned release of the passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship evacuees by the CDC to give the federal government time to make sure those who are released do not pose a danger to the public, the city said in a news release. City officials had asked in the court filing to raise the number of tests a person must show negative and length of time an individual is isolated.

While U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez said in his ruling that he shares the concerns of the city, he also stated that his court has “no authority to second-guess (federal health officials) determinations.”

“The United States Government is, in effect, washing its own hands further of this quarantine. This is disappointing,” Rodriguez wrote in the ruling.

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The TRO was part of a “two-prong” approach the city took to keep exposure to the public low. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg also issued a Public Health Emergency Declaration to prohibit quarantined individuals from being released into the city and authorizing the city to “to take any actions necessary to promote health and suppress disease, including quarantine.” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff filed a similar declaration of a local state of disaster.

“Especially given the release this weekend of a patient who had to be brought back into isolation after a ‘weakly positive’ test for the virus, it is imperative that every one of the individuals at Lackland be tested and cleared before being released, as recommended by our medical community,” Nirenberg said in a statement. “If the federal government will not do the right thing in this case, the City of San Antonio will use its powers so that appropriate measures are taken to protect the community from exposure to COVID-19.”

About the Authors

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and KSAT.com includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.

Kolten Parker is digital executive producer at KSAT. He is an amateur triathlete, enjoys playing and watching soccer, traveling and hanging out with his wife.

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