Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is hosting a town hall meeting for military personnel and their families at 5 p.m. on Wednesday to answer questions and address concerns about the facility being designated as a quarantine site for those returning from overseas amid the coronavirus outbreak, should the need arise.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be gather at the Gateway Club to discuss efforts to protect the health and welfare of those on the military base and the surrounding community.

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is one of four U.S. military bases on standby to assist the Department of Health and Human Services accommodate 1,000 people who may have to be quarantined upon arrival from China as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The designated military bases include two military bases in California and another in Colorado, and were selected by the United States Department of Defense on Saturday in response to a request by Health and Human Services (HHS) officials for facilities capable of housing at least 250 people in individual rooms through February 29.

Responding to the announcement, San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh said in a memo to Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the City Council, that “while this situation poses a very serious global public health threat, based on what we know at this time, we believe the risk to us here in the San Antonio community is currently low.”

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland will provide housing only, while HHS will be responsible for all care, transportation, and security of the evacuees. Defense Department officials said that military 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.

“Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, HHS has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital,” Defense Department officials said.

Evacuees will be housed at either the Gateway Inn or Gateway Villa, temporary lodging facilities located on base, and will not have access to any other areas on base or any contact with the Joint Based San Antonio-Lackland population.

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is in the process of creating a fact sheet that will include answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus as base officials work to narrow down dates and details for the upcoming town halls.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has reached 11 as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with diagnoses in California, Washington, Arizona, Illinois, and Massachusetts.

Globally, more than 14,500 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed by the World Health Organization, and more than 300 people have died.

On Saturday, the Philippines Department of Health announced a 44-year old man passed away after contracting coronavirus, becoming the first person outside of China to succumb to the novel virus.

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency last week, and the Trump administration also announced a public health emergency Friday, amid the spread of the virus to more than 20 countries and territories. The U.S. has been evacuating citizens and personnel from China since Jan. 28.

Baptist Health System said in a statement that it is working with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and the CDC to respond to any potential coronavirus cases in the San Antonio area.

“We routinely treat infectious diseases at our hospitals. We have strong infection control policies, procedures, and systems in place to screen and treat patients,” hospital officials said in the statement posted to its website home page.

In turn, Metro Health said it is working with the Department of State Health Services and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology to provide updates and ensure local hospitals are prepared to respond to patients showing symptoms of coronavirus, which includes fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

The CDC is working with officials at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to ensure quarantined people do not pose any danger to the local community.

“We should all be comforted by the extra precautions being taken by federal, state and local health officials, Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. “We do not currently have any individuals diagnosed with the coronavirus here in San Antonio, and our Metro Health Department will continue to monitor the situation and exercise an abundance of caution.”

Roseanna Garza

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

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