SAN DIEGO — A flight carrying American citizens fleeing the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Wednesday morning.
The travelers were aboard one of two flights arriving at California air bases Wednesday, with the other aircraft landing at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento early in the morning. The plane bound for MCAS Miramar landed at Travis AFB as well, refueling before heading on to San Diego County. It landed around 10 a.m.
The roughly 550 evacuees were screened for symptoms at the Wuhan airport before boarding the two planes, and will now be subject to “Centers for Disease Control (CDC) screening, health observation, and monitoring requirements” upon arrival, the State Department said in a statement.
Authorities said the Miramar passengers would likely be kept at the base for two weeks to ensure they do not pose a health risk to the public. Passengers will be provided food, water, lodging and sundries while on the base from Health and Human Services and receive medical care if required, a Marine Corps spokesperson said.
The flights come about a week after the first US government-arranged flight left Wuhan. That first chartered plane, carrying nearly 200 US citizens — including diplomats and their families — arrived January 29 at March Air Reserve Base in Southern California.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered a federal 14-day quarantine for those evacuees — the first such order in more than 50 years.
The flights seem to end a few days of uncertainty for the Americans who’d been seeking a way out of Wuhan. A US-arranged flight initially was to depart on Monday, but was delayed, a US official with knowledge of the matter told CNN.
The Chinese government on Monday declined to comment about the delay. But it came as Beijing criticized the United States’ response to the coronavirus outbreak, including temporarily denying foreign nationals entry to the US if they had been in China in the previous 14 days.
More than 24,000 cases of Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, including 11 in the United States. At least 490 people have died from the virus.
Even more flights from Wuhan for US citizens could be scheduled. The State Department tweeted it “may be staging flights” on Thursday and interested citizens should contact it by email.
Americans who remain in China should take precautionary measures, including “stocking up on food,” the State Department said.
California father waits to reunite with wife and children
San Diego resident Kenneth Burnett was hoping his wife and two children will be on one of Tuesday’s flights, he told CNN on Monday.
His wife, Yanjun Wei, 3-year-old son Rowan, and 1-year-old daughter Mia have been holed up in a high-rise apartment in Wuhan. He was supposed to join them there to celebrate the Chinese New Year, but the outbreak shut the city down, he said.
“It’s terrifying. It is very dramatic to shut down (an area) of 50 million people. You think to yourself, if that can happen what else can happen?” Burnett said.
The three were tentatively booked on an evacuation flight out, he said, after he contacted the State Department and the US Embassy in China for help. The children are US citizens; his wife is due to take her citizenship exam this month.
“We think my wife and kids will get seats, but they basically they won’t guarantee anything. They’ll say maybe the Chinese authorities won’t allow it. We know that other countries have not had some of these problems. We feel like other countries haven’t felt this problem,” he said.