Quarantine at California base amid coronavirus fears is CDC’s first in 50 years

LOS ANGELES — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ordered a quarantine for all 195 people from Wuhan, China, who were evacuated to March Air Reserve Base this week after fleeing the coronavirus outbreak overseas. The orders were made under statutory authority of the Health and Human Services Secretary, the CDC said Friday.

The quarantine will last 14 days — the incubation period for the virus — from when the plane left China, CDC officials said. The mandatory quarantine is the CDC’s first in more than 50 years.

“While we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented public health threat, and this is one of the tools in our toolbox to mitigate the potential impact of this novel virus on the United States,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We would rather be remembered for overreacting, than under-reacting.”

The State Department chartered a private plane to evacuate diplomats stationed at the Wuhan consulate, along with their families. On Wednesday, 201 Americans, including a month-old baby and several teenagers, arrived in California after fleeing the outbreak in China.

There have been only a handful of coronavirus cases diagnosed in the U.S., with one each in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as in Chicago, Arizona and Washington state. But on Thursday, the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency over the outbreak, a decision that likely will give health officials a greater supply of resources to combat the infection.

Following a U.S. State Department advisory about the health risks of travel to China, two of the world’s largest airlines have announced a temporary halt on flights to the country. American Airlines announced an immediate suspension of all flights to and from China through March 27. Delta Air Lines said it would suspend all flights to China through April 30, beginning Feb. 6.