Federal Judge Blocks Southern California Site for Coronavirus Quarantine

February 23, 2020 Updated: February 23, 2020

A federal judge temporarily blocked the U.S. government from transferring as many as 50 people infected with the novel coronavirus to a local facility in Costa Mesa, California, after pushback by some local officials.

The officials argued that the federal government had provided no details about how neighborhoods in the Orange County city would be protected from COVID-19, which has triggered lockdowns in dozens of Chinese cities since it emerged late last year.

Costa Mesa filed a legal request Feb. 21 to halt the plan to hold 30 to 50 patients who tested positive at the Fairview Developmental Center, which is located near several neighborhoods, unless the facility is deemed suitable for quarantine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It is certainly not an isolated location,” Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley told the L.A. Times. “It would certainly be important for us as the lead city to know what the plan is.”

That prompted U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the move before setting a hearing for Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. According to The Associated Press, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services informed the city that federal officials had been planning on transporting the infected patients as early as Feb. 23.

City officials said they weren’t involved in the planning.

“The city has not been part of any of the process that led to the consideration of the site, and it would be unfair to not include us in this kind of significant decision that has great impact on our community,” Foley told the Orange County Register.

coronavirus beijing china
A Chinese guard wears a protective mask and suit as he waits to check temperatures and register people entering a building in a commercial area in Beijing, China, on Feb. 21, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

It’s not clear where the coronavirus patients are currently being held.

On Feb. 22, the Orange County Health Care Agency said that it was told Feb. 20 about the state of California’s intent to transfer patients from Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield to Fairview.

“The transportation, monitoring, and care of these individuals would be entirely managed by state and federal representatives,” the department said in a statement, the L.A. Times reported.

But officials haven’t been given key details including the operational plans or the services involved, according to the local health agency.

California Health and Human Services Agency said it is working with federal health officials to relocate people who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan to Travis Air Force Base. It noted that anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 can’t stay at the base and must be sent to the hospital or quarantined elsewhere.

“If Fairview were chosen, the federal government would be responsible for providing health care—easing the burden on our hospitals during flu season—and for providing robust security to ensure the public safety and public health of the surrounding community,” the California Health and Human Services Agency said in a statement.

During a Costa Mesa news conference about the proposal, protesters arrived with signs, including one that read, “Don’t turn our city into another Wuhan,” referring to the Chinese city where the virus is believed to have originated.

Locals deserve to know who made the decision to put Fairview on the list of sites for quarantine, said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.). “For something as serious as the coronavirus, this is not the time to have a breakdown in communication,” he said, according to the OC Register.

So far, in the United States, there have been at least 35 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.