Military Bases May Be Asked to House Even More Coronavirus Evacuees

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U.S. Air Force photo
Sign welcomes visitors to Travis Air Force Base in California. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Pentagon is preparing to house as many as 1,000 more coronavirus evacuees from China in what would effectively be a 14-day quarantine at four U.S. military bases, chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Monday.

But he "wouldn't rule out more" evacuees, he said, should the virus continue to spread.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper held discussions with Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, centered on arrangements for the additional evacuees and assurances the command has the necessary resources, Hoffman said at a briefing.

The 1,000 evacuees taken to the four bases will be in addition to the nearly 200 who arrived last week at March Air Reserve Base in California.

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Charter flights are expected to leave the U.S. for China throughout the week to evacuate American citizens from Wuhan in central Hubei province, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated, according to the State Department.

The charters will take the evacuees to Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California; Fort Carson in Colorado; and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Hoffman said about 198 evacuees are currently at March and will be monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services and local health officials for 14 days from their arrival. Similar restrictions will be in effect at the other four bases, he added.

There have been no reports of confirmed cases of coronavirus among the evacuees at March.

Efforts are being made to provide each evacuee with an individual bathroom and access to quality care at local hospitals should they show symptoms of the pneumonia-like coronavirus, Hoffman said. He stressed that DoD personnel will have no contact with the evacuees.

Hoffman said he "wouldn't rule out" requests for more assistance from the military.

Last week, Adm. Phil Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, banned travel to China for all service members and civilians in his command and ordered those in China to leave immediately.

Hoffman didn't have figures on how many command personnel are in China on leave, but said there are still flights out they could take. Once back at the command, the personnel will be monitored for 14 days.

The latest report Monday from the World Health Organization in Geneva said there had been 361 deaths from coronavirus in China; the number of confirmed cases there had risen to more than 17,230.

Outside of China, 153 cases had been confirmed in 23 countries, including at least 11 in the U.S., the WHO said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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