Amid Virus Outbreak, U.S. Citizens Flown from China to Riverside Base

All of the 201 passengers had already been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


What to Know

  • All 201 passengers had already been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The Americans will undergo additional health screenings in California and will be temporarily housed there
  • The Americans aboard the white cargo plane left Wuhan before dawn Wednesday, China time

A State Department-chartered aircraft carrying 201 U.S. citizens from the Wuhan region of China, flashpoint of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, arrived at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside Wednesday, but local officials said steps are being taken to ensure there is no threat to public health.

"While we realize that many people are nervous right now, understand that we are committed to your safety and are taking all precautions to ensure both the passengers and our residents are safe," Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said.

Interactive: What to Know About the Coronavirus

The plane touched down at March ARB at 8:11 a.m. The passengers remained at the base and were cordoned off from military personnel. While they are not under mandatory quarantine orders, they are expected to remain under observation at the base for 72 hours.

The CDC says to stay home when you're sick, wash your hands, and don't panic. Tony Shin reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

"When I talked to them about their willingness to stay to be fully evaluated over three days or so, all of those that I talked to were very willing to do that. … They want to protect their family, they want to protect others," said Christopher Braden, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The passengers will be checked for temperature and respiratory symptoms every three hours over the course of the next three days, officials said.

Asked if any passengers will be allowed to leave the base before the three-day evaluation period is up, Rear Admiral Dr. Nancy Knight, director of the Division of Global Health Protection at the CDC, said, "Any discussion about departure will be just that, a discussion."

Braden said that after the three-day evaluation period, passengers will have the option to go home, but they will continue to be monitored for the remainder of the virus' two-week incubation period by their local public health agency.

"If we think that a person is a danger to the community, we can institute an individual quarantine for that person, and we will," said Braden.

The plane first landed in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop and preliminary screening of passengers was conducted by CDC personnel about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. Passengers were also monitored throughout the flight and none of them were deemed high risk, Knight said.

Among the passengers were nine children, the youngest of which is 1 month old.

The flight was originally scheduled to land at Ontario International Airport, but the CDC announced the new landing site for the aircraft Tuesday night.

"CDC just let us know the flight will be diverted to March Air (Reserve) Base," San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman said in a video posted to his Twitter account about 7:35 p.m. Tuesday.

Many passengers on the flight work at the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan. The original flight manifest stated that there were 240 passengers aboard the flight, but officials said some people did not show up or did not have the proper documentation to board. One person had a fever and had to stay behind in China.

Braden said that although little is known about the coronavirus, the risk of infection for people in the United States is low.

The coronavirus outbreak was first detected in December in the industrial city of Wuhan in the Hubei province of central China. Since then, more than 5,975 cases have been reported in China, with at least 132 deaths, and the virus has been confirmed in patients in a handful of other nations, including the United States. As of midday Wednesday, five cases have been confirmed in the United States -- including one in Los Angeles County and one in Orange County.

The Riverside County Emergency Management Department set up a dedicated phone line to answer residents' questions about coronavirus at 951- 358-5134.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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