195 Americans are released from coronavirus quarantine at California air base

  • By Bill Chappell/NPR
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The 195 Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, in late January have now been released from the first mandatory quarantine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ordered in more than 50 years.

The group, which faced numerous health screenings both in China and during their trip and quarantine, has now been “medically cleared,” health officials said Tuesday, clearing the way for them to leave the March Air Reserve Base in Southern California.

“Our guests at March Air Reserve Base are happy to see an official end today to their 14-day quarantine and are looking forward to returning home. We wish them well!” Riverside University Health System – Public Health said via Facebook Tuesday, posting an image of the evacuees gathered together outside, tossing blue face masks into the air.

There are no confirmed cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus among the 195 evacuees, the health system said in a statement disseminated by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“They have completed their final health check this morning, which included their symptom check and their temperature check,” said Rear Admiral Dr. Nancy Knight of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Saying that it’s now safe for the group to rejoin their communities and families, Knight added, “This is a huge celebration for all of us here at March Air Reserve Base.”

Knight also stressed that the completion of the quarantine means that the evacuees have been determined to be entirely free of the virus that has now killed more than 1,000 people in China.

“They pose no health risk to themselves, to their families, to their places of work, to schools or their communities — no health risk of novel coronavirus from these individuals whatsoever” Knight said.

Knight also praised the evacuees, thanking them for their professionalism and cooperation over the past two weeks.

“They have been through a lot during these last few weeks, not just the two weeks of quarantine, but also during their time in Wuhan before flying to the United States,” she said.

As they celebrated the evacuees’ release, Knight and Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer, also noted that some members of the communities near the air base had shown their displeasure at the decision to house the quarantined group at the air base.

“Discrimination has been a significant problem,” Knight said.

During the quarantine, the group lived in a cordoned-off area of March Air Reserve Base, which is in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles. While many of the evacuees were leaving immediately after the quarantine officially lifted Tuesday, some of them were believed to be staying an extra night, to travel on Wednesday.

The quarantine group is a mix of U.S. diplomatic staff, businesspeople and families with children. They flew out of Wuhan on a jet that was chartered by the U.S. State Department.

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