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U.S. judge delays decision on moving coronavirus-exposed Americans to Costa Mesa, CA

By Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint

Contributing Writer for Telegraph Local | See my LinkedIn


A federal judge on Monday addressed federal and state officials to answer the questions of Costa Mesa, California, residents about their plans to bring Americans who have tested positive for the coronavirus but show no signs of illness to a closed ­mental-health facility in the city. District Judge Josephine Staton cautioned that the city of Costa Mesa and Orange County if it joins the effort  does not contain veto power over state and federal quarantine decisions and faces an uphill battle trying to block the transfer of people from Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.

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She said she will not make a decision in the city’s lawsuit based on people’s panic, yet was also critical of state and federal officials for not doing more to lessen people’s worries.. She counseled them to answer residents’ questions about who would care for people who tested positive or were potentially exposed to the virus, how many quarantined individuals might be moved to Costa Mesa and what would happen if they developed symptoms and required hospitalization.

“When decisions are made in a hurry, mistakes are made,” she said, summoning the parties back to her courtroom on March 2 for a ruling. According to the Washington Post, Costa Mesa,California and Anniston, Alabama, are the first U.S. communities that sought to block plans to transfer Americans repatriated from Asia and now in federal quarantine to facilities in their midst. While Costa Mesa won a preliminary injunction Friday to temporarily block the transfer, top-ranking Alabama officials  including Gov. Kay Ivey (R), U.S. Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R) and U.S. Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R) took their case directly to President Trump and apparently won an assurance that the administration would not move forward with its plans there.

Jennifer Keller, an attorney from Costa Mesa, debated that it was not appropriate to quarantine patients with the COVID-19 virus in the city’s Fairview Developmental Center as it is located on a busy street in a residential neighborhood. The United States has not seen the virus spread through its communities the way that China and a few other countries have experienced, but health officials are preparing for the possibility. In an emergency meeting held Sunday morning, the Anniston City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging that all options be considered to prevent the passengers from being moved into their community. Similar emergency meetings for the city council of the neighboring community of Oxford as well as the Calhoun County Commission were announced for later in the day on Sunday.

After two weeks in quarantine, more passengers have left the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship docked in Japan. Passengers testing negative for the coronavirus were free to go. NBC News reported that all passengers are expected to be off the ship this week. An elderly couple from Atlanta was on that ship. Clyde and Renee Smith, who are 80 years old, are quarantined in a Tokyo hospital. Their son said he’s concerned because they still test positive for the virus despite not showing symptoms. 

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The couple is starting to inquire what is going on and when they’ll finally be able to come home. “I don’t think the medical community has any current, firm knowledge of what’s going on there,” Clyde said.  “So, we’re being unwilling guinea pigs,” Renee said. The couple is now undergoing testing every 48 hours. They must test negative before they can return to the U.S. Despite the setbacks, they are staying upbeat. 

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