Pentagon Adds Another Base for Quarantining Coronavirus Evacuees

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Camp Ashland Training Site in Nebraska.
FILE -- Members of the Nebraska Army National Guard and Nebraska Task Force One, Urban Search and Rescue conduct structural extraction training, May 23, 2019, at the Camp Ashland Training Site in Nebraska. (Nebraska National Guard/Spc. Lisa Crawford)

The Pentagon says it will use yet another U.S. military base to host up to 75 people in need of quarantine and possible treatment for the new coronavirus from China.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts agreed this week that Camp Ashland, a Nebraska National Guard base roughly 30 miles from Omaha, will house the latest evacuees at the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

Officials told local news affiliates in Nebraska that the evacuees would arrive at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, where they will be ushered to a remote and isolated aircraft parking area before being brought to the base.

Roughly 1,000 evacuees are being taken to four other bases -- Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California; Fort Carson in Colorado; and Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.

Those bases are in addition to March Air Reserve Base in California, where nearly 200 evacuees arrived last week.

Related: Military Bases May Be Asked to House Even More Coronavirus Evacuees

Charter flights have been leaving China throughout the week to evacuate American citizens from Wuhan in China's central Hubei province, where the coronavirus is believed to have originated.

Roughly 350 passengers aboard two jetliners landed at Travis on Wednesday morning. Though none of the evacuees is showing symptoms of the virus, they will be quarantined at the base for the next two weeks, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Similar restrictions are in effect at the other installations.

HHS "will be responsible for all care, transportation, and security of the evacuees," the DoD said in a statement Wednesday. "This includes limiting the movement of the evacuees on Camp Ashland."

The same policy applies to all bases being used for the quarantine effort, officials said.

Military 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. "Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, HHS has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian medical facility. HHS will also ensure that no evacuated personnel are transferred to any DOD installation if they are infected or ill."

Earlier this week, Esper spoke with Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, head of U.S. Northern Command, on new arrangements for the additional evacuees, DoD spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 3,000 new cases were confirmed in China over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 24,363.

So far, there have been no reports of confirmed cases of coronavirus among the evacuees at March, though a child was recently hospitalized after developing a fever, The Associated Press said.

There are 12 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the number of confirmed cases in the U.S.

-- Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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