DOD to House Novel Coronavirus Evacuees Longer

The Pentagon is extending the amount of time that four bases will house people under quarantine for possible exposure to the novel coronavirus until mid-March, as two Air Force bases opened their doors to more arrivals.

The Defense Department is making Travis Air Force Base, Calif.; Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., available to house affected Americans through March 15.

Travis and Lackland are already housing hundreds of evacuees, and received additional people Feb. 16 and 17 who were removed from the cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan.

A State Department-chartered plane carrying the cruise-goers landed at Travis late Feb. 16. Fourteen of 171 people on that flight tested positive for the virus, which originated in China.

“These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services release.

The infected visitors were taken to an off-base site for “continued isolation and care,” Travis said in a statement.

COVID-19 had infected more than 73,000 people and led to more than 1,800 deaths in 26 countries as of Feb. 18, according to the World Health Organization.

HHS is leading the U.S. effort to isolate and care for the sick, who are staying in hotels on base. Travis said no USAF personnel are interacting with those in quarantine, and the base is under normal operations.

Those in quarantine must stay under observation for 14 days and can leave if no symptoms arise.

“Every precaution to ensure proper isolation and community protection measures are being taken,” Travis said in a release. “The safety and security of our Team Travis members and their families remain our highest priority.”

Meanwhile, Lackland is hosting 235 people in quarantine. None have tested positive for the virus, the base said.