In a conference call with Bexar County Commissioners Court on Wednesday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services said that evacuees showing symptoms of coronavirus will be sent to area hospitals as directed by the Department of Defense.

The phone call came after Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff on Tuesday asked for patients to be kept on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to minimize risk to local health care providers and residents.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) told the Rivard Report that members of the court “are all in agreement that the way things are being handled are not the right way.”

“The first mistake is bringing [evacuees] to the seventh largest city in the country, where there’s a large population and where civilian leadership cannot be in control,” Calvert said. If the federal government wants to take the lead on oversight of those in quarantine, they should maintain that oversight once a person tests positive for coronavirus instead of sending them off base to a civilian hospital once they are diagnosed, Calvert said.

In a letter sent to the Department of Defense on Wednesday, Calvert said that the military is well-equipped to set up temporary medical facilities to accommodate evacuees on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and if they want to continue to use the base for quarantine, they should construct a special facility on-site to treat patients who test positive for the novel coronavirus.

“There should be a one-stop shop facility for medical and living needs so that you reduce moving potential or diagnosed individuals to more than one location,” Calvert said, noting that consistent moving of evacuees throughout San Antonio is a “rookie administrative mistake.”

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is currently housing more than 200 quarantined people on base, 141 of which arrived via charter on Monday from Japan following a U.S. repatriation effort that evacuated 338 Americans from the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship.

San Antonio’s first group of evacuees were brought to the local Air Force base from China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, with one person testing positive for the virus – the 15th diagnosis in the U.S.

Calvert said that if by Friday the Department of Defense directive is still in place to send patients testing positive to area hospitals, that Commissioners Court needs to think about creating a single isolation treatment facility – either from the ground up or identifying a place just outside of Lackland to treat coronavirus patients.

Better yet, Calvert said, taking evacuees to Wyoming, Nebraska, or keeping them at the port of entry would be “more more appropriate than sending them to San Antonio,” which is a major population center.

“We have the same concern as the rest of public as to where these people are going and risks of exposure,” Calvert said. “The judge and the Commissioners Court are supposed to be in charge of situations like this and we are not. We don’t feel like this is being taken seriously.”

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza

Roseanna Garza reports on health and bioscience for the Rivard Report.