Riverside County’s public health officer issued a quarantine order Thursday for one of the roughly 200 passengers who arrived at March Air Reserve Base from Wuhan, China, on a U.S. State Department-chartered airplane.
The order by Dr. Cameron Kaiser requires the person to remain on the base for the entire two-week incubation period or until otherwise cleared of possible coronavirus infection. The action came after the unidentified passenger attempted to leave the base.
“This action was taken as a result of the unknown risk to the public should someone leave MARB early without undergoing a full health evaluation,” officials said.
The plane touched down at March at 8:11 a.m Wednesday. The 195 passengers — who were flown from the Chinese region where the deadly coronavirus was first detected — were cordoned off from military personnel, and official said they would be checked for temperature and respiratory symptoms every 12 hours over the course of 72 hours, officials said.
With the exception of the person who was quarantined, passengers remained under voluntary isolation.
“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 Christopher Braden, a deputy director at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
He 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.
“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,” Braden said.
“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,” County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said.
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, Rear Admiral Dr. Nancy Knight, director of the Division of Global Health Protection at the CDC, said.
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.
Among the passengers were nine children, the youngest of which is 1 month old.
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 7,700 cases have been reported in China, with at least 170 deaths, and the virus has been confirmed in patients in a handful of other nations, including the United States. As of Thursday, six cases have been confirmed in the United States — including one in Los Angeles County and one in Orange County. The CDC on Thursday morning confirmed the first person-to-person infection in the United States, involving a husband and wife in Chicago.
The Riverside County Emergency Management Department set up a dedicated phone line to answer residents’ questions about coronavirus at 951- 358-5134.
— City News Service