American diplomats and citizens evacuated from the epicenter of the fast-spreading Coronavirus in China landed at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County. It was reported 201 people were on board a U.S Government chartered flight from Wuhan, China. The passengers aboard the American bound plane included family units with babies and teenagers. They all will remain on base for at least three days as they undergo medical evaluations that include nose swabs and blood samples.
A media event was held Wednesday morning at the Riverside University Health System, Medical Center in Moreno Valley, CA. Deputy Director Chris Braden from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions said the passengers who arrived shortly before 8 a.m. will go through daily evaluations before they are allowed to leave. The flight stopped for refueling in Anchorage, Alaska and was originally going to land at the Ontario International Airport before being redirected to the military base.
Not everyone was allowed to board the plane in China. Some Americans were unable to join the flight home because they did not have proper documentation or they presented symptoms, said Braden.
“Your health and safety is my number one priority,” Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) said in a statement Wednesday to his constituents. “It’s completely understandable that people have questions upon hearing a plane carrying American citizens being repatriated from Wuhan, China was landing in our region. That’s why I have been communicating with federal and local public health officials to ensure necessary precautions are being put in place to keep you and your family safe. Health officials continue to indicate the risk of infection from Coronavirus in America is low.”
Rear Admiral Dr. Nancy Knight, director of the Division of Global Health Protection at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said at the press conference the passengers will be monitored twice a day. The symptoms of the Coronavirus according to the CDC are, shortness of breath, fever, and cough.
Wuhan and more than a dozen other cities in China have cut travel off to prevent the virus from spreading. As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases of the Coronavirus was 7,783, with 170 deaths and counting. According to the Johns Hopkins University Live Tracking website, the only deaths have been in China. However, there have been five confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in the United States, including one in Arizona, two in California and one in Illinois and Washington as of Jan. 29, 2020. Two cases were also confirmed in Ontario, Canada.
Johns Hopkins University also reported as of Jan. 29, 92 unconfirmed cases of Coronavirus in the United States.
A patient in Clark County, Nevada checked themselves into a hospital Wednesday after experiencing cold-like symptoms days after returning from Wuhan.
Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer for the Nevada Health District said, “The agency has been monitoring this situation closely and it takes up to 48 hours to determine if the patient is infected from the Coronavirus.“
Riverside City Councilmember Carla Thornton is frustrated about the lack of communication between local congress members and city officials. Thornton said, “I am frustrated that neither the city of Moreno Valley nor the MARCH Joint Powers Authority was notified by the Federal Government of the plane being redirected from Ontario Airport to March Reserve. This is a federal issue and there needs to be better communication to the local cities and residents who are impacted.“
Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) said he was informed Tuesday night that the flight from China was diverted, “I received a briefing from the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The information I was given made it clear that everyone on board is being closely monitored by medical personnel and receiving medical screenings to ensure their safety and the safety of others.“
Aja Smith a congressional candidate and veteran running against Takano attended the press conference and sent the California Globe her response, “As a former employee of March Air Reserve Base and a Congressional Candidate of the district, in my experience, March ARB has played a role in many real-world issues. March is showing they are prepared for real-world catastrophic situations, be a pandemic flu, where our hospital capacity is overrun, or it could be to used replace hospitals that are damaged or destroyed in an earthquake.“
Smith said she has concerns as to why the CDC is only quarantining the passengers for three days, “Why not wait the full 14 days just to be safe? The federal government’s top concern is ensuring that these Americans return home safely without posing a risk to others.“
Smith was not alone in her concerns for the three day incubation period.
Riverside County resident Helga Wolfe was concerned the passengers would only be held for 72 hours, “The entire two weeks would be the safest. Inconvenient and hard for our citizens but the consequences are too big to do anything else.“
“Curious that the incubation period is 14 days and they aren’t erring on the side of caution. Why aren’t they mandating a quarantine period of the whole 14 days, not just three,” said Laurie Nunnally from Orange, California.
Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said, “The safety and security of our residents is our top priority. We understand many people may be nervous, Understand we are committed to your safety. We are taking all precautions to make sure the passengers and residents are safe.”
Supervisor Manuel Perez said, “It was better to land here at the base than at Ontario Airport because here we can at least control the situation. We also found out at the last minute but were able to move as quickly as possible to provide care.”
The CDC has issued a warning to avoid all non-essential travel to China.