All 195 American passengers evacuated from Wuhan, China on a charter flight will be quarantined in California, to evaluate whether they have contracted the deadly new strain of coronavirus, U.S. federal health authorities said on Jan. 31.
The mandatory order, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was the first of its kind in around 60 years.
“While we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented public health threat,” CDC’s Nancy Messonnier said in a conference call on Friday.
“We are preparing as if this is the next pandemic, but we are hopeful still that this is not and will not be the case,” she said.
The quarantine will last for 14 days from the passengers’ departure date in Wuhan, where the infectious disease first broke out, on Jan. 29. They are currently staying in the living quarters inside the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, around 60 miles from Los Angeles. The air force base is under strict surveillance 24/7.
County health officials have issued a quarantine order for one of the passengers who tried to leave the base the day prior, according to a statement.
The officials said they are waiting on the laboratory testing results, but have issued the order as a precaution.
The passengers were originally placed under a voluntary 72-hour medical observation. No one has been identified with the virus thus far.
Messonnier stressed, however, that testing negative for the coronavirus is not proof the person is “out of danger,” nor does it guarantee that the individual will not develop symptoms later and spread the virus to someone else.
“These are Americans who clearly want to do the right thing, and in contrast to their experience in Wuhan, this is a much better scenario for them,” Martin Cetron, director for the CDC’s division of global migration and quarantine, told reporters.
To date, the United States has six confirmed cases of coronavirus. The sixth, a man from Chicago, Illinois, was the first case of human-to-human transmission. The man’s wife had previously contracted the disease after traveling to Wuhan.
The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency of public concern, saying their greatest concern was “the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems” that are “ill-prepared to deal with it.”
The State Department on Thursday raised the travel alert for visiting China from level three to level four—the highest level of warning—cautioning U.S. nationals not to go to the country.
Family members of all government employees who are under the age of 21 are ordered to leave, according to the latest travel advisory.
A State Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times on Friday that they are arranging additional flights to help evacuate remaining U.S. citizens in Wuhan.
“As space is available, seating will be offered to U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis,” the spokesperson said.