RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — For the first time in 50 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a quarantine order in the United States — and it comes in Riverside County amid concerns over the new coronavirus. Meanwhile, public health officials confirmed the third case of the illness in California Friday, and the first case in the Bay Area.
The quarantine order was issued Friday for the 195 American passengers who arrived Wednesday morning at Riverside County’s March Air Reserve Base after a flight from Wuhan, China. The repatriated travelers will remain in quarantine at the base 14 days from the time they left Wuhan Tianhe International Airport, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC told reporters during a briefing call Friday.
According to a U.S. State Department spokesperson, the plane departed Wuhan Tianhe International early Wednesday morning (China Standard Time).
“While we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented public health threat,” Messonnier said, adding that the quarantine order was issued because the “magnitude and scope” of the outbreak is increasing in China and around the world. On Thursday, the World Health Organization declared a “public health emergency of international concern” because of the ongoing spread of the new coronavirus.
“If we take strong measures now, we may be able to blunt the impact of the virus on the United States,” Messonnier said. “Here are the facts as we know them today. Every day this week, China has reported additional cases. Today’s numbers are a 26 percent increase since yesterday. Over the course of the last week, there have been nearly 7,000 new cases reported.”
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Messonnier said she was not prepared during Friday’s call to discuss how other people traveling from the outbreak epicenter in China to the United States will be processed, but she said the CDC expects to share that information as soon as possible.
Coronavirus test results for all 195 repatriated citizens at March have not been returned, Messonnier said, and she stressed that a negative test result does not ensure a person is not infected with the illness.
In a statement issued after the call, the CDC said, “Medical staff will continue to monitor the health of each traveler, including temperature checks and observation for respiratory symptoms. If an individual presents symptoms, medical care will be readily available. Even if a screening test comes back negative from CDC’s laboratory results, it does not conclusively mean an individual is at no risk of developing the disease over the likely 14-day incubation period.”
The last time the CDC issued a quarantine order was during a 1960s smallpox scare, CDC officials said during Friday’s call.
Riverside County health officials issued a statement showing full support for the CDC’s move. “Riverside County officials will continue to work collaboratively with local, state and federal representatives to protect the health of the returned passengers, residents of March Air Reserve Base and all community members of Riverside County,” the statement read.
Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, said his “office was not consulted on the decision to utilize March Air Reserve Base as a repatriation center for this flight” and he has requested information from federal officials about the decision. The flight was originally scheduled to land at Ontario International Airport, but Tuesday night officials got word the plane was rerouted to March.
“My top concern is the health and safety of our community and employees and personnel at March Air Reserve Base,” Takano said. “After speaking with medical professionals, I believe that this quarantine order will help protect our community in Riverside County and the repatriated individuals, their families, and their communities.”
On Thursday, one of the passengers at March attempted to leave the base, which prompted Riverside County health officials to quarantine that person. CDC officials did not provide further details about that person but said all of the people housed at March are cooperating with the quarantine order.
During Friday’s call, Messonnier said the CDC does not believe the situation at March poses a health risk to the local community.
There are currently no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in the Inland Empire, although one case was confirmed in Los Angeles County and another in Orange County. A Santa Clara County man became the first confirmed Northern California case of the coronavirus on Friday, public health officials said.
As of Friday, with the addition of the Bay Area case, seven cases have been confirmed in the United States, including the first person-to-person infection involving a husband and wife in Chicago.
Amid concerns, the U.S. State Department has issued its most serious travel advisory, warning Americans not to travel to China. Delta, American and United airlines also announced they will temporarily halt all of their flights to mainland China due to the coronavirus outbreak.