No plan to move Travis pa­tients

Ver­dict: Judge stops plan to move pa­tients to Costa Mesa

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Krieger

In a sur­prise move, a fed­eral judge has de­cided to keep a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der through next Mon­day that blocks the trans­port of any­one in­fected with or ex­posed to the coronaviru­s from Travis Air Force Base to a pro­posed quar­an­tine fa­cil­ity in Costa

Mesa, say­ing more time is needed to dis­cuss plans.

Fed­eral and state health of­fi­cials sought to trans­fer in­fected peo­ple to Costa Mesa’s 125-acre Fairview De­vel­op­men­tal Cen­ter, a state-owned fa­cil­ity for peo­ple with men­tal dis­abil­i­ties, which is now empty. But city lead­ers filed a law­suit to stop the move, cit­ing

fears for res­i­dents’ health.

The strategy is now sus­pended while lo­cal, state and fed­eral of­fi­cials hold a court-or­dered meet­ing to dis­cuss plans for us­ing the fa­cil­ity.

As the global epi­demic widens, Amer­ica faces the on­go­ing threat of new cases — and the prob­lem of where they will go. Rapidly ex­pand­ing out­breaks in South Korea, Iran and Italy, fol­low­ing those in China and Ja­pan, are rais­ing fears of a coronaviru­s pan­demic on mul­ti­ple con­ti­nents.

On Mon­day, the num­ber of in­fected Amer­i­cans jumped to 53, from 34 on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the fed­eral Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol. So far, nearly all in­volve former pas­sen­gers on the Di­a­mond Princess cruise ship. Three more pas­sen­gers evac­u­ated from the ill-fated cruise tested pos­i­tive on Sun­day and were hos­pi­tal­ized in Solano County hos­pi­tals, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

The De­part­ment of De­fense says it will not al­low any­one who tested pos­i­tive for the virus to re­main on mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tions, so the U.S. De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices an­nounced last week that it would re­lo­cate in­fected in­di­vid­u­als held in quar­an­tine at two bases — Travis Air Force Base and Joint Base San An­to­nio-Lack­land in Texas — to the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency Cen­ter for Do­mes­tic Pre­pared­ness in An­nis­ton, Alabama.

But An­nis­ton re­buffed that plan. So it was can­celled on Sun­day af­ter­noon by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The state’s planned move to Costa Mesa was not im­mi­nent, be­cause the re­sults from the es­ti­mated 140 tests of cur­rent res­i­dents are still pend­ing.

But health of­fi­cials are braced for a surge in new cases.

In essence, the state is caught be­tween fed­eral and lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

Ex­cept at the na­tion’s bor­ders, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and its mil­i­tary bases are not in charge of quar­an­tines, said Polly J. Price, pro­fes­sor of law and global health at At­lanta’s Emory Univer­sity and an ex­pert on the le­gal his­tory of quar­an­tines.

Author­ity for Amer­ica’s de­fense against epi­demics is di­vided among more than 2,000 state and lo­cal health depart­ments, who typ­i­cally co­op­er­ate, she said.

So the state looked for an al­ter­na­tive to the fed­eral mil­i­tary base. But Costa Mesa is ob­ject­ing on “home rule” grounds un­der Cal­i­for­nia law.

The state ar­gued that if Costa Mesa fa­cil­ity wasn’t used, Solano County and sur­round­ing coun­ties will be charged with car­ing for these in­di­vid­u­als in hos­pi­tals and ho­tels, “se­ri­ously bur­den­ing their health care de­liv­ery sys­tems,” ac­cord­ing to state and fed­eral le­gal fil­ings in U.S. District Court.

The Costa Mesa fa­cil­ity was se­lected as a place that can pro­vide up to 30 days of iso­la­tion and care, ac­cord­ing to le­gal fil­ings.

It would hold only peo­ple who do not re­quire hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, and it is the only ap­pro­pri­ate and suit­able sta­te­owned site for in­fected peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the state’s le­gal fil­ing.

But it could of­fer a place to re­cu­per­ate dur­ing re­cov­ery. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­search by China and the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, peo­ple with mild disease re­cover in about two weeks, while peo­ple with se­vere or crit­i­cal disease re­cover within three to six weeks.

Author­i­ties said Travis pa­tients would be trans­ported to Costa Mesa air or ground am­bu­lance in fed­er­ally ap­proved pro­tec­tive equip­ment and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would be re­spon­si­ble for se­cu­rity, san­i­ta­tion, food, med­i­cal care, case man­age­ment and lo­gis­tics.

“Pa­tients housed there would be restricted from in­ter­act­ing with the sur­round­ing com­mu­nity,” said Mark Ghaly, sec­re­tary of the Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Agency, in a state­ment.

Other fa­cil­i­ties — such as the Sonoma De­vel­op­men­tal Cen­ter, Army Na­tional Guard Camp Roberts and closed youth cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties — were con­sid­ered, then re­jected.

The city’s lead­ers blocked the move, say­ing they say they were blind­sided by the fed­eral plan.

“Our top pri­or­ity is the safety and se­cu­rity of this com­mu­nity and those who live in this re­gion,” Mayor Ka­t­rina Fo­ley said in a state­ment.

The prac­tice of quar­an­tine be­gan dur­ing the 14th cen­tury in an ef­fort to pro­tect coastal cities from the bubonic plague. Ships ar­riv­ing from in­fected ports to Venice, Italy, were re­quired to sit at an­chor for 40 days be­fore land­ing. The word “quar­an­tine” is de­rived from the Ital­ian words quar­anta giorni — which, trans­lated, mean “40 days.”

It’s the most ex­treme use of gov­ern­ment power over peo­ple who have com­mit­ted no crime, said Emory’s Price.

While the U.S. has quar­an­tine “sta­tions” in San Fran­cisco, Los An­ge­les, San Diego and 17 other cities, they’re not de­signed for long-term stays and mon­i­tor­ing.

A cen­tury ago, Cal­i­for­nia had a quar­an­tine sta­tion on An­gel Is­land that held 400 beds, a hospi­tal, dis­in­fect­ing plant, lab­o­ra­to­ries and con­va­les­cence quar­ters.

To­day, that fa­cil­ity and sim­i­larly iso­lated sites at El­lis Is­land and along the Mex­ico bor­der are long gone. Most of An­gel Is­land’s quar­an­tine build­ings were torn down in the late 1950s. It be­came a state park. In New York, the fa­cil­i­ties at El­lis Is­land were closed in 1954 and it was turned into a na­tional mon­u­ment.

“Im­proved med­i­cal prac­tices made lengthy quar­an­tines un­nec­es­sary,” ac­cord­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia State Parks web­site.

In re­cent years, out­breaks of other in­fec­tious dis­eases, most no­tably Ebola in 2014 and SARS in 2003, have led to a gen­tler ap­proach, with an em­pha­sis on home con­fine­ment and care­ful at­ten­tion to sub­jects’ well-be­ing.

Now the gov­ern­ment, con­fronted by the po­ten­tially large num­ber of coronaviru­s cases, is ur­gently try­ing to find some­where to put peo­ple where they can be closely mon­i­tored and cared for.

“The CDC does not have quar­an­tine or iso­la­tion fa­cil­i­ties that can han­dle more than a few at a time,” ac­cord­ing to Emory law scholar Price.

Fed­eral, state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments have long planned for a pan­demic like this, she said.

“But putting plans into ef­fect may have some jolts,” said Price. “They have to scram­ble around to im­ple­ment plans. It may be messy. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion may not have been ideal “

“Gov­ern­ments don’t keep quar­an­tine fa­cil­i­ties read­ily avail­able,” she said. “We don’t, as a gen­eral rule, have fa­cil­i­ties just wait­ing around just to be used for rarely needed quar­an­tines.”

JOEL ROSENBAUM — THE RE­PORTER FILE

Af­ter­noon traf­fic flows to­ward the main gate at Travis Air Force Base in Fair­field ear­lier this month.

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