US confirms its eighth case of coronavirus; Pentagon to provide quarantine housing

Passengers board buses after arriving on an aircraft, chartered by the US State Department to evacuate government employees and other Americans from Wuhan, at March Air Reserve Base California, January 29, 2020. — Reuters pic
Passengers board buses after arriving on an aircraft, chartered by the US State Department to evacuate government employees and other Americans from Wuhan, at March Air Reserve Base California, January 29, 2020. — Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 — US health officials yesterday confirmed an eighth case of the fast-spreading new coronavirus in the United States and the Pentagon said it would provide housing for people arriving from overseas who might need to be quarantined.

The latest US patient, who is in Massachusetts, recently returned from Hubei province in central China, the epicenter of the outbreak, a spokeswoman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an emailed statement. The person was not identified and no other details were provided.

The flu-like coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in a market that traded illegally in wildlife in Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, has so far resulted in 259 deaths in China, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

All but one of the patients in the United States was believed to have contracted the disease while they were travelling in the Wuhan area. US officials this week reported the first human-to-human transmission of the disease in the United States in Illinois.

Concerns about the virus spurred the Trump administration to declare a public health emergency and bar entry to the United States for foreign nationals who have recently visited China.

In addition, US citizens who have travelled within the past two weeks to Hubei will be subject to a mandatory quarantine of 14 days, believed to be the incubation period of the virus, officials said.

Americans who visited other parts of mainland China will undergo special health screening upon their return, followed by up to 14 days of “monitored self-quarantine,” under the temporary restrictions.

In a statement yesterday, the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services for housing support for 1,000 people who may be subject to quarantine on arrival from overseas.

Health officials had asked the Defense Department to provide several facilities capable of housing at least 250 people in individual rooms through Feb. 29.

The Pentagon said Defense Department personnel would only provide housing support and HHS would be responsible for all care and transportation. Four military installations have been selected: two in California, one in Colorado, and one in Texas.

“DOD personnel will not be directly in contact with the evacuees and evacuees will not have access to any base location other than their assigned housing,” the Pentagon said.

The first quarantines of US citizens potentially exposed to coronavirus in China began hours before the White House announcement on Friday.

Nearly 200 Americans evacuated earlier this week from Wuhan and voluntarily confined to a California military air base for 72 hours of health screenings were placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine on Friday.

It marked the CDC’s first quarantine order in 50 years.

Nearly 12,000 people have been infected globally by the virus, according to the WHO, with all but just over 130 of those cases occurring in China.

US health officials have said risks to the United States remain low. — Reuters

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