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Grand Princess cruise ship evacuees arrive at JBSA-Lackland

More evacuees expected to arrive Wednesday

Another cohort of cruise ship passengers arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on Tuesday night to be quarantined for the coronavirus.

In total, 380 passengers from the Grand Princess are expected to be quarantined at the base, a CDC official confirmed Monday. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said 91 of those passengers are from Texas.

The evacuees live in Texas or surrounding states, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg previously said.

Abbott’s office released the following statement Tuesday night regarding the newest wave of evacuees.

“Governor Abbott has been assured that no one who is not a Texan will be released to a local or state health facility so as not take to away resources from Texans who have or may contract the coronavirus or are dealing with other health issues. HHS also assured the Governor that they are actively working to send non-Texans to their home states as quickly as possible so they can receive care there. Texas is grateful to HHS for working to resolve this issue quickly and effectively.“

The ship, which was holding roughly 3,500 passengers, docked Monday at the Port of Oakland, where officials were waiting for them with medical tents.

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In addition to Texas, passengers will be flown or bused from the port to bases in California and Georgia, depending on where they live.

About two dozen people who need acute medical care were taken off the ship, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services, while others were waiting to depart the ship and head to military base for quarantine.

Over the weekend, San Antonio city officials learned that Joint Base San Antonio Lackland will again quarantine passengers.

Previously, more than 230 people had been quarantined at Lackland. Those people were flown back into the country from Wuhan, China, where the virus first spread, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan. Eleven of those evacuees were diagnosed with the virus and taken into isolation.

Local officials have expressed displeasure with some of the federal policies put in place for the quarantined Americans.

During the previous quarantine missions in San Antonio, city and county officials asked the Department of Defense to test the evacuees on base instead of taking them to local hospitals, which officials worried risked exposure to the community.

The collaboration also appeared to fail after one of the patients treated for COVID-19 was released into the San Antonio community while a pending lab test showed she was still positive for the virus. The woman had checked into a hotel and visited North Star Mall.

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Though the potential exposure has not lead to any community-transmitted cases in San Antonio, the incident led the city and county to declare public health emergencies.

The effort failed to keep evacuees in quarantine for additional coronavirus testing, as the city had requested, but led to changes in the departure policies to avoid exposure to the public. The CDC also agreed to no longer release patients with pending lab tests.


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