One of the passengers aboard a plane chartered by the U.S. State Department evacuating government employees from the Wuhan province of China due to the coronavirus outbreak was placed under a mandatory quarantine by Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Thursday, Jan. 30 after the passenger attempted to leave March Air Reserve Base where passengers are being held under observation.
The plane, which carried approximately 200 passengers, arrived at March Air Reserve Base Wednesday, Jan. 29, just after 8 a.m.
The mandatory order requires the passenger to stay at March ARB for the entire incubation period or until otherwise cleared. The action was taken as a result of the unknown risk to the public should someone leave March ARB early without undergoing a full health evaluation, according to a press release issued by the Riverside Department of Public Health.
The passenger will remain at March ARB until their health status is confirmed, despite officials calling the quarantine voluntary during a news conference held Wednesday, Jan. 29.
“When I talked to them about their willingness to stay to be fully evaluated over three days or so, all of those that I talked to were very willing to do that. … They want to protect their family, they want to protect others,” Center for Disease Control representative Dr. Chris Braden said during the news conference.
The passengers will be checked for temperature and respiratory symptoms every 12 hours over the course of the next few days.
When asked if any passengers will be allowed to leave the base before the three-day evaluation period is up, Rear Admiral Dr. Nancy Knight, director of the Division of Global Health Protection at the CDC said that any discussion about departure “will be just that, a discussion.”
Braden said that after the evaluation period, passengers will have the option to go home, but they will continue to be monitored for the remainder of the virus’ two-week incubation period by their local public health agency.
“If we think that a person is a danger to the community, we can institute an individual quarantine for that person, and we will,” he said.
To date more than 6,000 cases have been reported of the deadly illness which has claimed the lives of 132 in China. So far, six cases have been reported in the U.S., with two of those cases in California, one in Orange County and a second in Los Angeles County.
Earlier today, health officials reported the sixth person to contract the disease is the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the coronavirus. The man, who had not been to China, is married to the Chicago woman who got sick after she returned from a trip to Wuhan. There have been other cases reported of the infectious virus spreading to others in a household or workplace in China and elsewhere.
Officials say the threat to the public remains low.
“And we aim to keep it that way,” Kaiser said.