CORONAVIRUS

American Evacuees From Wuhan To Be Quarantined

Jan 29, 2020, 8:23 AM | Updated: Feb 17, 2020, 12:16 pm
A Boeing 747-4B5(F), on a charter flight from Wuhan, China, arrives at Ted Stevens Anchorage Intern...
A Boeing 747-4B5(F), on a charter flight from Wuhan, China, arrives at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on January 28, 2020 in Anchorage, Alaska. The U.S. government chartered the plane to evacuate U.S. citizens and diplomats from the U.S. consulate in Wuhan, China where the coronavirus outbreak began. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

(CNN) — A planeload of hundreds of Americans returning to the US from the epicenter of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak will be quarantined in California for a period of time and passengers will not be allowed to return to their homes immediately.

The announcement came in a press release from the Alaska Department of Health, where the airplane from Wuhan to California stopped for re-fueling.

“Health officials in California are working diligently with the CDC and other partners to prepare for the passengers to arrive in California, where they will be re-screened and temporarily housed for a period of time,” according to the press release.

Tuesday night, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that the passengers will be “monitored for symptoms post-arrival.”

None of the 201 passengers are sick, and quarantining an entire plane of healthy people is “certainly unusual,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a longtime CDC adviser.

“With SARS and Zika, we quarantined individuals, but not a whole airplane,” said Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

It’s not clear for how long or where the passengers will be kept in California. Originally, the flight was supposed to land at Ontario International Airport, and arrangements there were underway to keep them there through at least Sunday, according to a county official there.

Curt Hagman, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, said Tuesday that an empty hangar at the Ontario airport was being outfitted with beds, phone chargers, and televisions so they could watch the Super Bowl game this Sunday.

Late Tuesday night, while the flight was en route to the US from Wuhan, it was re-routed to March Air Force Base, about 30 miles from the Ontario Airport.

In a video posted to YouTube, Hagman did not give a reason for the last-minute switch.

The decision to quarantine

Quarantining an entire planeload of people is unusual — but the circumstances surrounding the Wuhan coronavirus is unusual.

“There’s much that is unknown about this virus, and so they’re being cautious,” Schaffner said. “I think this is consistent with good public health policy.”

Most significantly, it’s unclear if people who are infected with the virus, but not yet showing symptoms, can spread the disease. Chinese health authorities say asymptomatic people can spread the virus, but US health authorities say they’ve seen no data to suggest that.

The French, Australian, and South Korean governments are quarantining their citizens returning from Wuhan.

On Sunday, French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said that when the French citizens fly home this week, they will be kept in one place to avoid any spread of the virus.

“In order to avoid any spread on the national territory, all the people who are being repatriated will be monitored by health professionals, and will be held for 14 days,” Buzyn said.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, announced that Australians being flown out of Wuhan were required to stay quarantined on a remote island off the west coast of Australia.

“Australians departing on any flight arranged by the Australian Government will be flown to Christmas Island to undertake a period of quarantine of up to 14 days based on current medical advice as a condition of their assisted departure,” according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office. “This will ensure we are also prioritizing public health in Australia.”

In South Korea, citizens returning from Wuhan will be quarantined for 14 days in two government facilities, and will receive medical check-ups twice a day, according to a government statement.

Health authorities believe the incubation period — the time from exposure to the virus until the onset of symptoms — could be as many as 14 days.

Some experts think quarantining healthy passengers is the wrong approach.

Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease expert at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said that when someone on an airplane is found to have influenza, fellow passengers are not quarantined.

“We don’t do this for the flu, and it’s known to cause 35,000 deaths in the US every year,” he said.

He said quarantining the Wuhan passengers sends the wrong message — that a new, exotic virus from a faraway land is more to be feared than one that is in our midst.

“I can’t understand why they’re doing this. It doesn’t make sense,” Offit said. “I think it sends the message that this is a virus that is particularly to be feared, that it’s more likely to cause deaths than say influenza, which isn’t true.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Coronavirus

FILE: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news briefing at the Pentagon July 21,...
TARA COPP, Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is making clear he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops.
1 day ago
flu shot tripledemic...
Matt Rascon

KSL+: The rise of respiratory viruses and COVID’s impact

It’s not even winter yet, and the CDC is warning that the country is experiencing a resurgence of respiratory viruses, which are taking a toll on hospitals and children.
2 days ago
RSV and flu...
Deidre McPhillips, CNN

Flu season intensifies, holiday gatherings could make it worse

Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that's worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide.
6 days ago
Protesters hold up blank papers and chant slogans as they march in protest in Beijing, Sunday, Nov....
Jessie Yeung and CNN's Beijing bureau

Rare protests are spreading across China. Here’s what you need to know

From Shanghai to Beijing, protests have erupted across China in a rare show of dissent against the ruling Communist Party.
6 days ago
Police officers block Shanghai's Urumqi Road on Sunday. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images)...
CNN's Beijing bureau and Nectar Gan

Protests erupt across China in unprecedented challenge to Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy

Protests erupted across China throughout the weekend, including at universities and in Shanghai where hundreds chanted "Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!"
7 days ago
Salt Lake City Police at the University of Utah Hospital due to a possible bomb threat. (Salt Lake ...
Michael Houck

Police: Unattended bag led to bomb squad response at U of U Hospital

Salt Lake City Police responded to a possible bomb threat at the University of Utah hospital Tuesday afternoon.
19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
American Evacuees From Wuhan To Be Quarantined