Celebrated Military Air Show Canceled over Coronavirus Concerns

A biennial air show that typically draws hundreds of thousands of people to March Air Reserve Base will not be held as planned this month because of growing anxiety about the potential spread of novel coronavirus in Riverside County, base officials announced Wednesday.

“After several meetings and conversations with local civilian and military health officials, we have decided to postpone the 2020 March Field Air & Space Expo due to COVID-19 concerns,” according to statement released by March ARB.  “We are doing everything we can in conjunction with Riverside County health officials to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. Department of the Air Force personnel and their families live, work and attend school in this community, and we are committed to doing our part to limit the spread of the virus.”

Officials said that the air show will likely be rescheduled, but potential dates were not mentioned. The two-day event had been set for the weekend of March 28-29.

March ARB  is not under the jurisdiction of the county, so county public health directives issued since Tuesday forcing cancellation of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival did not apply to March.

The air fests generally attract close to a half million attendees over two days and feature numerous military and civilian aircraft, with performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Vendors throughout the region are usually on hand, selling or advertising a variety of goods.

The base is home to the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, comprised of massive transport aircraft, such as the C-17, and air-to-air refueling tankers like the KC-135.

March ARB was at the epicenter of the first federal health quarantine of a large group of people in decades, when 195 U.S. State Department employees and their loved ones who were evacuated from the now-shuttered U.S. Conuslate in Wuhan, China — where the virus originated — were placed in isolation on the west side of airfield.

The evacuees were monitored, tested and re-tested for possible infection between Jan. 29 and Feb. 11, after which the quarantine concluded, and they went to their respective homes throughout the country.

On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors ratified a local public health emergency declaration, empowering the county’s chief medical officer, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, to implement mitigation strategies aimed at preventing spread of COVID-19. Only four infections have been documented within the county — all in the Coachella Valley.

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