Photo: Mindy Schauer, AP
Coronavirus patients at Travis Air Force Base must go.
Diamond Princess cruise ship evacuees who tested positive for the pneumonia-like virus need to leave the base in Fairfield, Calif., even if they don’t have symptoms, according to federal authorities.
The California Health and Human Services Agency said in a statement Saturday they must be sent either to the hospital or, if they’re not sick enough, isolated until the infection has cleared. Of the 3,700 passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess, over 500 have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The genesis of the outbreak is an 80-year-old guest from Hong Kong who joined the cruise on Jan. 20, 2020.
The ship was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan for over a week before passengers were allowed to board planes back to their home countries.
Due to a lack of beds in specialized hospitals in Northern California, one place under consideration for the Travis patients is the state-owned Fairview Development Center in Costa Mesa. The center for people with mental disabilities is currently unoccupied, according to the Sacramento Bee.
“If Fairview were chosen, the federal government would be responsible for providing health care — easing the burden on our hospitals during flu season — and for providing robust security to ensure the public safety and public health of the surrounding community,” the state’s statement said.
But the move has been stalled as Costa Mesa officials argue that the plan lacks details about how the community would be protected from the outbreak.
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order late Friday to halt the transportation of anyone who has tested positive for the new coronavirus to Costa Mesa, a city of 110,000 in the heart of Orange County. U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Stanton scheduled a hearing on the issue Monday.
City officials quickly sought court intervention after learning from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services that U.S. officials planned to start moving patients to a state-owned facility in Costa Mesa as early as Sunday.
They said in court documents that local officials were not included in the planning effort and wanted to know why the Fairview Developmental Center was considered a suitable quarantine site and what kind of safeguards were in place to prevent the possible transmission of the virus that has spread worldwide.
“The city has not been part of any of the process that led to the consideration of the site, and it would be unfair to not include us in this kind of significant decision that has great impact on our community,” Mayor Katrina Foley told the Orange County Register.
In a court filing, federal and state officials said city’s arguments against the quarantine threaten public health.
“Plaintiffs’ ill-informed and legally baseless application endangers the safety and well-being of the American people,” the filing says. “Plaintiffs ask this Court to substitute unfounded speculation for the expertise of federal and state public-health authorities. Instead of providing public-health expertise (or any expertise), Plaintiffs ask this Court to rely on internet statements and speculation.”
Fairview is a 109-acre campus that was once home to about 2,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s now nearly empty as the state has moved residents into community homes and other living situations.
A state lawmaker whose district includes Costa Mesa said he feared the virus could travel through the facility’s air vents.
“The coronavirus patients should be treated humanely and with the best medical care available. But the first priority must be to contain the virus and make sure it doesn’t jump into the local population,” Republican state Sen. John Moorlach said.
Globally, the virus has infected nearly 78,000 people in 29 countries, and more than 2,300 have died.
SFGATE digital reporter Amy Graff contributed to this report.