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Wolff to Roy: Defense department should reconsider its coronavirus policy at Lackland

BEXAR COUNTY, Tex. (KTSA News) — Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff would like the federal government to find a way to keep those who may need to be tested for the coronavirus to remain at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and not transported to civilian facilities.

That runs directly counter to the Defense Department’s wishes to move any potential patients off the base immediately should any sign of an ailment develop while under federal quarantine.

Wolff sent a letter to Rep. Chip Roy Tuesday saying the current policy of transporting evacuees under quarantine at the military base to other parts of the San Antonio area is unnecessary and places local healthcare staff and other residents at potential risk of exposure.  The letter comes after he had a conference call with the congressman’s chief of staff and federal government officials about how it is handling the care of evacuees from areas impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

“With the federal medical assets staffed by the CDC currently located at Lackland Air Force Base, there is sufficient and appropriate healthcare personnel to collect test samples on these individuals on base while continuing to monitor their care under the protective and safe custody of the federal quarantine,” Wolff wrote.  “I would appreciate it if you could reach out to the U.S. Department of Defense regarding updating the current procedures to test quarantines individuals at Lackland Air Force Base on the base instead of transporting them to a local hospital.”

One patient is currently being cared for at Methodist Hospital Texsan in Balcones Heights after being diagnosed with the virus.

Military officials Saturday said the care for these evacuees is solely the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — including maintenance that needs to be done at the military facilities while it uses them for these quarantine purposes.

“No [U.S. Department of Defense] civilian employees, military personnel, or contractor personnel will be involved in these services,” San Antonio military officials said in a statement then. “DOD personnel will not have contact with evacuees and will minimize contact with personnel supporting the isolation/quarantine. HHS will ensure that no evacuated personnel are transferred to any DOD installation if they are infected or ill. Any evacuees who are symptomatic or become symptomatic will be transferred to an off-base local civilian medical facility.”

At last count, there were 235 people under quarantine at Lackland with 145 of them arriving early Monday morning from Japan and being kept separately from the 90 still under quarantine from China.  The group from China will be released from quarantine later this week, barring any additional developments.



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