A plane carrying 201 U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China – the epicenter of a deadly coronavirus outbreak – has landed at a military base in California after briefly stopping in Alaska on Tuesday night to refuel.
The Boeing 747 with red and gold stripes and no passenger windows, landed at March Air Reserve Base on Wednesday morning, just after 8 a.m. local time. The plane was initially headed to Ontario International Airport in San Bernardino County but was diverted to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County “for the logistics that they have,” according to an official.
All passengers onboard had already passed two screenings in China and were screened twice more while refueling in Anchorage, Alaska. They will undergo additional screenings in California and be temporarily housed there for a period of time, officials said. One passenger received medical attention for a minor injury that occured before boarding the plane, the Associated Press reported.
“Our primary objective is to facilitate the safe return of these Americans while protecting the public’s health,” the CDC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Department of Defense said it was ready to “providing housing support to Health and Human Services (HHS) as they work to handle the arrival of nearly 200 people, including Department of State employees, dependents evacuated from Wuhan, China.”
“DoD has assessed this support will not negatively impact readiness or critical operations, and we stand ready for their arrival,” Alyssa Farah, Department of Defense press secretary, said in a statement. “HHS is responsible for all care of the evacuees, and 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. Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, HHS has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital.”
Farah said the DoD will continue to monitor the situation.
“The department’s primary responsibility at this time is the safety of our force, our families and our base communities,” she said.
The outbreak has sickened nearly 6,000 people and been linked to at least 132 deaths. The number of cases confirmed in mainland China has now surpassed those that were sickened during a SARS outbreak in 2002-2003. However, the coronavirus death toll still remains lower than the 348 people in China who were killed by SARS.