A 15th case of the new, deadly coronavirus was confirmed in Texas among evacuees who fled the Chinese epicenter of the outbreak and have been living under quarantine, federal officials announced Thursday.
Just hours earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a 14th infection in San Diego, the second case among approximately 230 evacuees living under quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
The Texas case at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland was in a person who fled the outbreak’s origin city of Wuhan, China and arrived to the U.S. on a State Department-chartered flight on Feb. 7.
“All people who lived or traveled in Hubei Province, China, are considered at high risk of having been exposed to this virus and are subject to a temporary 14-day quarantine upon entry into the United States,” the CDC said in a press release Thursday morning. “This is the first person under quarantine at JBSA-Lackland who had symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. The individual is currently isolated and receiving medical care at a designated hospital nearby.”
The most recent San Diego patient returned to the U.S. on a State Department-chartered flight on Feb. 7 and has been in a 14-day quarantine at Miramar with another group of Americans who arrived two days earlier. Earlier this week, another woman on the same base was confirmed to have the illness, but authorities said the patients arrived on different planes, have been housed in separate facilities, and have no epidemiologic links. Despite being housed in separate facilities, evacuees told The Daily Beast Wednesday that the two groups have repeatedly gathered together for meals, meetings, and temperature checks.
CDC medical epidemiologist and the agency’s head on-site physician at the San Diego base, Dr. Christopher Braden, said in a statement that there is currently “no indication of person-to-person spread of this virus at the quarantine facility” but that “CDC will carry out a thorough contact investigation as part of its current response strategy to detect and contain any cases of infection with this virus.”
A California-based man living on the base with his wife and two young children, who requested anonymity over fear of professional repercussions from being tied to the historic epidemic, told The Daily Beast the new coronavirus patient “makes us more worried and nervous.”
The Daily Beast reported Wednesday that the father was one of dozens of temporary residents at the base who signed a petition demanding better oversight at the San Diego facility. The fears expressed in the petition echoed concerns raised by experts in recent days—and bolstered by a case of a possible “super-spreader” in the United Kingdom—about whether individuals without symptoms can transmit the disease.
The CDC did not publicly respond to the allegations presented by the evacuees on Wednesday, but Braden said last week the federal agency was “doing everything possible” to care for the individuals in their care.
Earlier this week, some 195 people were discharged from their 14-day quarantine on another California base, in keeping with what international health officials currently believe to be the high end of the novel coronavirus incubation period. But CDC said Thursday it expected additional confirmed cases in the coming days and weeks, including among the more than 600 people who remain on various U.S. military bases after returning from Wuhan.
Even as new cases were popping up stateside, passengers and crew stuck on the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan learned of dozens of new coronavirus infections early Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the ship, which is carrying 400 Americans, to 218.