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Pentagon to provide military installations near 11 major airports for coronavirus quarantine

The Hill logo The Hill 2/6/2020 Ellen Mitchell
a group of people walking down the street: Pentagon to provide military installations near 11 major airports for coronavirus quarantine © getty Pentagon to provide military installations near 11 major airports for coronavirus quarantine

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has asked the Pentagon to find military installations near 11 major airports that could potentially house up to 220 U.S. citizens quarantined due to the novel coronavirus, according to a Defense Department statement released Thursday.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to support the request for the locations, which would be used "should HHS facilities become filled."

The statement notes that the military facilities would house up to 20 people each "as they undergo a period of quarantined observation," but would be third in line to place individuals as "HHS already has primary and secondary locations identified that are not DOD facilities."

Several planes carrying American evacuees from Wuhan, China - the epicenter of the growing coronavirus outbreak - landed in the United States on Wednesday and Thursday.

The passengers will be quarantined for 14 days at airbases in California, Texas and Nebraska, the states where they landed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that there are 28,060 confirmed cases of coronavirus in China, with 564 deaths.

Outside China, there are 225 cases in 24 countries, with one death, the WHO said.

In the United States, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus has remained at 11 throughout the week.

The identified DOD installations and the airports they could support include Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, near Honolulu International Airport; Great Lakes Training Center Navy Base, Ill., by Chicago's O'Hare International Airport; Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Texas, close to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; March Air Reserve Base (ARB), Calif., by Los Angeles International Airport; Travis Air Force Base (AFB), Calif., near San Francisco International Airport; Dobbins ARB, Ga., near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; Fort Hamilton, N.Y., by John F. Kennedy International Airport; Naval Base Kitsap, Wash., near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C., by Dulles International Airport; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., by Newark Liberty International Airport; and Fort Custer Training Center, Mich., near Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The Pentagon will also provide office space for several HHS personnel and their equipment through Feb. 22.

"As with prior coronavirus Requests for Assistance, HHS will be responsible for all care, transportation, and security of the evacuees," and "DOD personnel will not be in direct contact with the evacuees and will minimize contact with personnel supporting the evacuees," according to the statement.

"HHS will also ensure that no evacuated personnel are transferred to any DOD installation if they are infected or ill."

Esper last week approved an HHS request to provide housing assistance for about 1,000 overseas travelers flying from China that would possibly need to be quarantined. As of Monday, 198 of the evacuees were being housed at March AFB, according to top Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman.

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