Americans on coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan to be evacuated to San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — More American citizens overseas in areas greatly affected by the coronavirus outbreak will be repatriating back to the United States and will be placed into quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Saturday there are about 400 American citizens onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship currently docked in Japan.  That ship currently has hundreds of current cases of coronavirus onboard.

The United States government is recommending the American citizens onboard that ship disembark and return to the United States to lighten the burden on the Japanese healthcare system and to fulfill the government’s responsibilities to American citizens overseas.

These Americans will travel back to the United States on flights chartered by the Department of State in a similar fashion to the evacuations of Americans from Wuhan, China.  These flights will take passengers to Travis Air Force Base in California and then some will be taken to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland from there.  It’s not clear how many people will end up at either facility.

HHS said all travelers from Japan will be screened before leaving the ship and monitored every step of the way.  If they show signs of symptoms before boarding the charter flight, they will not return to the United States.

The department said it will be screening and evaluating all of the evacuees along the way: before the flight, during the flight, and after arrival.  They will be screened again at Travis Air Force Base.  Those who continue on to Lackland will be screened throughout that process.

Those who arrive in the United States through this repatriation will be kept in separate quarters on these bases than those who were evacuated from Wuhan, China, though under a similar 14-day quarantine.

The Department of Defense said no civilian employees, military personnel or contractor personnel will be involved in this quarantine process.  It said HHS is ensuring none of the evacuees will be ill when they arrive on these bases.  If they become symptomatic, they will be taken to an off-base civilian medical facility for treatment.

The government did not state when these evacuations would begin or when evacuees should be expected in San Antonio.  The Defense Department said it is making its four temporary housing facilities — Travis Air Force Base, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Fort Carson in Colorado and Marine Corps Air Station-Miramar in California — available through March 15th.

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