Four U.S. bases are on standby to assist the Department of Health and Human Services with housing those fleeing the novel coronavirus threat, Pentagon officials said Saturday.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved an HHS request Saturday to house 1,000 people who may require quarantine following overseas travel, according to a Defense Department statement.
"HHS officials requested the Defense Department to provide several facilities capable of housing at least 250 people in individual rooms through Feb. 29, 2020," officials said.
Tapped for the contingency were The 168th Regiment, Regional Training Institute, in Fort Carson, Colorado; Travis Air Force Base, California; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California.
March Air Reserve Base in California has already taken in some 200 Americans evacuated from China, the epicenter of the new disease. The Associated Press reported that those travelers are subject to a two-week quarantine on the base.
Under the new agreement, the Defense Department would provide housing while HHS would provide medical and standard care, transportation and security for evacuees.
"DOD personnel will not be directly in contact with the evacuees and evacuees will not have access to any base location other than their assigned housing," officials said in the statement. "In accordance with CDC guidelines, all evacuees will be monitored for a period of 14 days. Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, HHS has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital."
Using the bases as quarantine centers, if needed, will not have a negative impact on military readiness or other critical operations, officials said.
"The department's primary responsibility is the safety of our force, our families and our base communities," the release stated. "DOD personnel will follow guidance in the memorandum, 'Force Health Protection Guidance for the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak,' to reduce risk."
Late Friday, officials with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command told Military.com that U.S. troops were being directed to leave China, and that travel to the country had been banned.
The federally ordered quarantine at March was the first such federal order since 1963, the AP reported, highlighting the gravity of the threat posed by the new disease.
To date, more than 250 people have died from novel coronavirus, and more than 12,000 cases have been confirmed.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.