Nearly 200 evacuees leave coronavirus quarantine at SoCal base

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Nearly 200 coronavirus evacuees were allowed to leave a Southern California military base Tuesday after being quarantined there for two weeks.

None of those who flew into March Air Reserve Base have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health authorities said, although one evacuee at another base had been found to have the highly infectious virus and was in hospital isolation.

The group, which includes children, arrived from China Jan. 29, taking chartered flights from Wuhan. The locked-down city of 11 million is the epicenter of the virus that has claimed more than 1,000 lives overseas.

In the United States, there have been only 13 confirmed cases, including seven in California, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials.

But fear of the disease has led to “unacceptable” treatment of others who work at the March airbase, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, said in an open letter to the community on Monday.

The evacuees, which include U.S. State Department workers or their families, were isolated from base personnel and weren't permitted to leave a fenced quarantine area, Kaiser said.

“People on and off the base are not at increased risk for exposure," Kaiser said.

“There have been comments made that have been hurtful — both in person and on social media — that are often based on incorrect or incomplete information," Kaiser said. “A few base workers have even been accosted in uniform. This is not acceptable, and needs to stop."

Hundreds of evacuees in the past two weeks were flown to military bases in California, Texas and Nebraska, where many are still quarantined. With one exception, none have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health authorities said.

The exception was an evacuee who flew into Marine Air Station Miramar in San Diego last week.

The adult and three other evacuees had been in hospital isolation after showing symptoms of the virus but on Sunday, federal health officials said they had tested negative and they were sent back to the base, where they joined more than 200 people who are under a 14-day quarantine.

On Monday morning, however, CDC officials informed county health officials that “further testing revealed that one of the four patients tested positive" for novel coronavirus and that person was returned to hospital isolation, UC San Diego Health said in a statement.

Another evacuee from Miramar also was hospitalized for evaluation Monday afternoon, UC San Diego Health said in a statement.

“Both patients are doing well and have minimal symptoms," the statement said.

Five evacuees taken to Travis Air Force Base, located between San Francisco and Sacramento, were hospitalized after showing symptoms of the virus but none of those possible cases has been confirmed, authorities said.

No symptoms were reported among evacuees at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio or a Nebraska National Guard training base in Omaha.

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