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Traveler is under coronavirus quarantine at Ventura County naval base

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An airport worker wears a mask amid fears of coronavirus at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 8.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

An international traveler who arrived before dawn Monday at Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu has been put under a federal 14-day quarantine for coronavirus, officials said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Sunday in a statement that the base could house passengers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport. The department was not immediately available to comment on how many travelers could be sent to the Point Mugu location.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper assigned the base the task of housing Americans suspected of exposure to coronavirus or possible infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is monitoring anyone who has traveled through Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

No one being quarantined at the base has displayed any symptoms of coronavirus, Capt. Jeff Chism said in a letter to sailors, families and employees of the naval facility. Anyone showing signs of the illness would be transported off the base.

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While under quarantine, doctors will assess whether anyone has contracted COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,600 people — mostly in China.

Although the base provides a space for the quarantine, officials said it isn’t involved in execution and planning. Anyone under quarantine will not have any contact with Department of Defense personnel.

Why did the U.S. government imposed a quarantine now for coronavirus, when no such mandate has been issued in over 50 years, despite routine outbreak of disease?

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“I am asking for your support as we host a group of people undergoing an uncomfortable transition. First, your safety is a primary concern, as is the dignity and privacy of repatriating personnel,” Chism said.

Those at the base have been instructed not to take photos of anyone quarantined during arrival and were warned that “minor changes” to daily life may occur while the quarantine is underway.

Earlier this month, nearly 200 Americans were quarantined at a Riverside County military base for two weeks. The group arrived at March Air Reserve Base from China and was released Feb. 11 after everyone tested negative.

It was the CDC’s first mandated quarantine in more than 50 years. It sent health officials scrambling and stirred panic but was viewed as one of the few tools to protect against the spread of the virus, which currently has no vaccine and a two-week incubation period.

According to the CDC, 1,336 of the department’s staff have been involved in the COVID-19 response. Of those, 497 have been deployed to 39 locations in the United States and internationally, including CDC quarantine stations at U.S. ports of entry, state and local health departments, hospitals and military bases that are housing quarantined patients.


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