Court hearing about coronavirus quarantine in Costa Mesa is canceled after feds drop plan

Federal officials have decided not to send people who tested positive for coronavirus to the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa, according to a court filing Friday.
(File Photo)

A federal judge has canceled a scheduled court hearing Monday about a hotly contested plan to place coronavirus patients in Costa Mesa, given that the federal government has dropped the proposal, the city said Sunday.

A check of U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton’s calendar for Monday doesn’t show the hearing.

In a court document Staton filed Friday, she acknowledged Costa Mesa’s objection to what it considers a “flawed, unreasonable decision-making process that wrongly excluded county and local professionals and government leaders.”

But she concluded that “does not reflect the narrow focus of this litigation, namely, the now-moot endeavor to prevent the identified transfer,” and said she was dissolving the temporary restraining order she issued a week earlier blocking the plan.

Monday’s session had been scheduled for 2 p.m. in Staton’s Santa Ana courtroom. She had granted Costa Mesa’s request Feb. 21 for a temporary restraining order that prevented federal and state agencies from placing people with the coronavirus known as COVID-19 at the vacated, state-owned Fairview Developmental Center for isolated monitoring and care. The patients, as many as 30 to 50, have been quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.

But on Friday, in a report that Staton ordered the sides to file after meeting to discuss the issue, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Beck wrote that “the federal defendants have decided not to move forward with the challenged proposal.”

The California Health and Human Services Agency said Friday that the federal government informed the state that the Fairview Developmental Center was no longer needed, since passengers testing positive for COVID-19 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who would have been sent to Fairview, were at “the imminent end of [their] isolation.”

“The temporary restraining order prevented Fairview from being available at a time when it was critically needed,” according to the statement.

Costa Mesa filed for the injunction against federal defendants including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, Air Force and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It also named as defendants the state of California and its Office of Emergency Services and Department of General Services, and the Fairview Developmental Center.

The city said Friday that local officials met the day before with representatives of state and federal agencies to try to get answers to the city’s questions about the proposed use of Fairview.

“After the three-hour meeting, we didn’t feel any closer to understanding the safety, security or patient plans for FDC and local hospitals in Orange County,” Mayor Katrina Foley said in a statement.

By contrast, the federal defendants said in the report that they found the meeting “informative and productive” and that federal officials answered “the vast majority of the questions.”

Foley also said that though she considered the government’s decision to drop the idea “at least a temporary victory for the citizens of Costa Mesa and Orange County ... the government has not promised not to place future infected persons there, so the battle is not over. We will continue to ask the court to prohibit the government from using this completely inappropriate facility for housing people infected with a highly communicable and potentially fatal disease.”

The city said Sunday that it “will notify the public if there are any other legal proceedings regarding this case.”

Rob Vardon is the city editor of the Daily Pilot. Staff writer Hillary Davis contributed to this report.

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