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Coronavirus quarantine lifted at CA military base, allowing 195 to go free

March Air Force Base (Don Ramey Logan Jr./WikiCommons)

The two-week coronavirus quarantine that kept nearly 200 U.S. diplomatic workers and their families confined to Southern California’s March Air Reserve Base has ended and all are free to leave, Riverside County Health officials announced Tuesday.

No one among the 195 people under federal quarantine at the base tested positive for novel coronavirus and posed no risk to the public, nor do people on and off the base. Two children who had symptoms were retested, found not to carry the virus and have since recovered, said Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County health officer.

Buses were expected to transport the evacuees to local airports to continue their travels, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

The word came late Tuesday morning in this county east of Los Angeles as Kaiser urged a stop to online – and even physical – attacks on base personnel, families and workers in presumed reaction to the base housing evacuees from the Wuhan virus zone.

“We have heard your concerns about the evacuees on the base. Many of these concerns are reasonable,” Kaiser wrote in an open letter to the Riverside County community dated Monday, ahead of the end of the quarantine Tuesday. “Unfortunately, some people with these concerns have taken them out on the families and households of people of March Air Reserve Base. … A few base workers have even been accosted in uniform. This is unacceptable and needs to stop.”

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The evacuees were separated from base personnel. Only U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention and Riverside University Health System nurses were in direct contact, taking temperature readings and watching for possible symptoms, Kaiser said.

“People on and off the base are not at increased risk for exposure to the new virus … they have had no contact with the evacuees,” Kaiser said. “They pose no greater risk than anyone else.”

The dramatic marathon flight carrying 195 people from Wuhan, China, to March Air Reserve Base near Riverside on Jan. 29 was the first in a series of evacuation flights from the hot zone to American military bases that have symbolized the growing epidemic. The quarantines at March and other military bases, including Travis Air force Base near Fairfield, were the first imposed by the federal government in more than a half-century.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the deadly virus has claimed 1,018 lives. More than 43,000 cases have been reported worldwide. More than 4,300 people have recovered from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering in Baltimore, which is tracking coronavirus cases.

Flights carrying hundreds more U.S. evacuees have since touched down in Fairfield at Travis Air Force Base; and at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego, where health officials on Monday confirmed San Diego County’s first coronavirus case, television station KFMB-TV and The Associated Press reported.

That evacuee was aboard one of two flights that arrived at Miramar last week and taken to UC San Diego Health. The patient was among four returned to quarantine Sunday in Miramar after they initially tested negative. Further testing Monday revealed one of the four tested positive for the virus, was returned to a hospital and is in isolation, AP reported.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman on Tuesday told KFMB-TV a mislabeled sample not initially tested led to the evacuee being sent back to Miramar.

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© 2020 The Sacramento Bee