A plane carrying more than 200 Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China landed at March Air Reserve Base in Moreno Valley Wednesday morning. The flight was originally supposed to land at Ontario International Airport. County and federal health officials addressed concerns about those traveling from epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
“People have reasonable asked the question, “why?”, they’re scared, you’re scared, there’s a lot about this virus that we don’t know but something that we also have to keep in mind is these folks need to come home,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, a Riverside County Health Officer.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control team assigned to this operation says the group has had several health screenings, two before boarding the flight in China, where one person with a fever was not allowed on the plane. They say screenings will continue every 12 hours while on the base and have access to medical care 24 hours a day.
“We check for symptoms that would be concerning of the novel coronavirus including fever, cough and other respiratory symptoms,” says Dr. Nancy Knight, the director of the Division of Global Health Protection with the CDC.
However the group, that include babies as young as one month old, is not under federal mandatory quarantine. They are on a three day voluntary hold at the base.
“When they arrive in the state where they’re going that state and local health department would be then responsible for monitoring for the remainder of the 14 days,” says Dr. Chris Braden, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC.
This raised a lot of questions since Chinese health officials have said people can spread the disease for up to two weeks before they show symptoms.
“If we think that person is a danger to the community we can institute an individual quarantine for that person and we will,” said Dr. Chris Braden adding while there is still a lot of unknowns about this coronavirus they are applying principles that worked from past outbreaks like ebola, “those public health actions have stopped those outbreaks, there’s no reason to believe it won’t stop this one.”
Still many questions remained unanswered.
The CDC says so far none of those at the base have shown any signs of the virus and are low risk for getting sick. They said they did not know what states they were from as that was yet to be determined by the screenings.
So far coronavirus has infected over 7,000 thousand people and killed 170 in mainland China where health officials have been struggling to contain the virus. Five cases have been confirmed in the U.S..
“It’s new explosive and it’s shot up like a canon as far as the number of cases and plus the other thing to keep in mind is we’re not entirely certain of the figures we’re getting from China,” says Dr. Kaiser.
Long time Moreno Valley resident Aja Smith, who used to work on the base and is a congressional candidate for the 41 District says she was more at ease before the news conference when she thought there was a mandatory quarantine, “I’m a little bit concerned, I wish there was a federal quarantine it will put the residents and all the surrounding cities a little bit at ease, I don’t think the passengers would mind to stay for 14 days.”
Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez says he thinks the three day hold should be a mandatory quarantine, but that’s the CDC’s call.