San Antonio mayor: New departure process for coronavirus evacuees ‘eliminated any exposure to the public’

7 evacuees still awaiting release, while 11 patients remain at TCID

SAN ANTONIO – Though the City of San Antonio’s efforts to ensure additional coronavirus testing on the evacuees who were quarantined fell short, Mayor Ron Nirenberg praised the local medical community’s handling of the situation Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday, 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 city had sought a temporary restraining order in federal court to change the federal policy on coronavirus testing, but the filing was denied Monday evening.

The mayor also issued a public health emergency as part of his efforts to change the testing policy.

“In the end, we can’t force the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to do the testing, unfortunately. We don’t have jurisdiction,” Nirenberg said. “But we do have the tools to affect change so we used them.”

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Nirenberg said federal and local officials were “able to improve the departure process” of the evacuees.

“We were in coordination with the CDC to make sure departure was done so in a way that eliminated any exposure to the public,” Nirenberg said. “We were able to coordinate a release where they were taken from the base straight to the airport.”

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 evacuation mission is winding down, but it’s not over just yet, Nirenberg said. Seven evacuees who have never tested positive for COVID-19 are still awaiting release depending on when they were first put in quarantine.

Eleven others who did test positive for the virus are still being treated at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease.

Nirenberg said the city and the local health community “stepped up” in helping the federal government repatriate the evacuees.

“(The evacuees) are Americans who want to go home,” Nirenberg said. “I want tho thank them for their patience. We want to also give them assurances that they’re free of the virus.”

A coronavirus patient who was treated and released in San Antonio was picked up Sunday after the CDC received a “weakly” positive test result that was pending at the time of the woman’s release.

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The woman checked into a hotel and visited North Star Mall, prompting the mall to close for 24 hours for a “deep cleaning.”

Nirenberg said the public should be confident the virus won’t spread.

“We’ve done an extremely thorough epidemiological investigation,” Nirenberg said. “There’s no elevated risk of exposure for folks who went to North Star Mall.”

Nirenberg said the city is not expecting any additional evacuees to be quarantined in San Antonio.

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