TRAVIS AFB (AP) — About 350 Americans fleeing the virus zone in China were being screened Wednesday at two California military bases where they will be quarantined for 14 days.
Two jets arrived before dawn at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield with the evacuated Americans on board. Officials said 178 of the passengers will spend the next two weeks at a hotel on the grounds. The remaining evacuees were transported hours later to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
Guests and staff at the hotel at Travis were moved out ahead of the planes’ arrival, Technical Sgt. Traci Keller said. The Americans were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is at the center of the new virus outbreak.
The evacuees range in age from under 2 to over 65. Most are American citizens who either traveled or lived in Hubei province, where Wuhan is the provincial capital, for months or years, said Dr. Henry Walke of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented health threat,” said Dr. Walke.” We are utilizing all of our tools in our tool box.”
KPIX 5 was able to speak with a family that was part of the group being quarantined at Travis. Daisy Roth had been traveling in China visiting family with her two young daughters, ages 5 and 10 months old.
“Exhaustion is really the overriding emotion,” said Roth.
Her husband Sam Roth is now waiting for his family to come home to Wisconsin, but he knows they will have to remain at Travis for at least two weeks.
“This whole trip, I’ve been worried about their immune system. I’m going to let them rest,” he said.
Because of the high risk of exposure, the quarantined group will be screened daily. One child on the flight had a fever and was taken away to be evaluated at an area hospital.
“A parent did accompany the child. We don’t want to separate the child from mother,” said Dr. Walke.
The news about the ill child raised serious concerns for Sam Roth.
“That’s my worst fear. It’s the first I’m hearing about it,” he said. “I hope that child gets well and my children don’t get infected.”
They will receive health evaluations to check for symptoms of the virus and have their temperature taken twice a day. They are not restricted to their rooms, but each family unit was told to stay 6 feet (nearly 2 meters) away from other families, along with other precautions.
“We don’t want kids to share toys between the families,” Walke said.
It is not known if anyone in the group is carrying the virus, as it can go undetected for two weeks. 14 days is the longest incubation period. This is the first time in 50 years the CDC has issued a quarantine.
Other planes carrying Americans from Wuhan will arrive Thursday at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, where they will be quarantined, the Centers for Disease Control said.
One of the planes left Travis Air Force Base later Wednesday and took about 170 Americans to the Miramar, where those people will also quarantined for 14 days, said Dr, Christopher Braden of the Centers for Disease Control.
“They are happy and relieved to be back in the United States,” Braden said at an afternoon news conference in San Diego. The passengers would be screened before they settle in at the base.
Also Wednesday, health authorities in the U.S. started shipping diagnostic test kits to labs in the U.S. and abroad. By the start of next week, testing for the virus will be done closer to patients, rather than at the Centers for Disease Control’s lab in Atlanta, and states will begin to communicate test results to the public. The center plans to update the U.S. case counts three times each week on its website.
“Now is the time to act so we can slow the introduction and impact of this virus in the U.S.,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the center. “This is the beginning of what could be a long response.”
The Americans were evacuated a week after another jet with 195 American evacuees from Wuhan arrived at March Air Reserve base in Southern California, where they remain under quarantine.
The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.
Juliette Goodrich contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.