SAN DIEGO — A portion of the more than 1,000 California residents aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland were on their way to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Tuesday for a mandatory coronavirus quarantine.
The ship had been offshore pending test results that showed at least 21 of the 3,500 people aboard had tested positive for the illness. The Grand Princess pulled into the Port of Oakland on Monday.
Health and Human Services said officials had hoped to unload about half the 2,400 passengers Monday. After several people who needed medical care were removed, dozens of Canadians came off and were standing in lines outside two tents displaying Canadian flags.
Americans will be transported to military bases in California, Texas, and Georgia to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and quarantined.
At least 1,000 of the passengers are Californians, and they will be held under 14-day quarantine. Some of the passengers will be quarantined at Miramar, and others will be held at Travis Air Force Base northeast of Oakland.
MCAS Miramar on tweeted an update saying a small group were expected to arrive Tuesday night and a larger second arrival is expected sometime Wednesday.
California Governor Gavin Newsom during a media briefing Tuesday mentioned Miramar as the next site that will process cruise ship passengers.
Passengers who are residents of other states are expected to be taken to Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.
A San Diego woman onboard - Cheri Stinson of Clairemont - told News 8 she was told she would be getting off the ship Tuesday and will be quarantined at Travis with her brother and sister-in-law who are also on the ship and live in Sacramento.
Governor Newsom noted that testing is at the top of mind in California. He said 18 state labs and two hospitals are currently processing coronavirus test kits with plans to expand in both sectors. Quest Labs in San Juan Capistrano is a commercial partner and is processing test kits. They processed roughly 100 tests on Monday, according to Newsom. Quest will open two other locations to commercial testing in Sacramento and West Hills in the coming weeks, approximately around March 24, according to the governor. Those facilities will have the ability to process 5,000-5,500 kits when they are up and running.
In addition, Newsom said authorities have been working to secure hotel and motel rooms across the state for individuals from The Grand Princess who need to be quarantined with no community contact. This will include people who were taken to a hospital from the ship but later released. They will not be joining the other passengers at military bases.
Newsom clarified that although testing kits may be available, they also require reagents and personnel to process. He said as of Tuesday morning, 1,075 people had been tested across California.
He warned that there may be a lag in reporting of numbers as the state works with different entities to process tests.
“The bottom line is: we need more tests,” Newsom said.
A letter was sent to sailors, Marines and families at MCAS Miramar on Tuesday about the federal quarantine and how they will handle the passengers. It did not give a timeline for when they will arrive.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering built an online dashboard for tracking the worldwide spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The dashboard is regularly updated with data from the WHO, CDC, and other sources and illustrates how the virus is spreading in China and beyond.
Meanwhile, San Diego County health officials on Monday confirmed the county's first presumptive positive case of coronavirus in a local resident, who is being treated at Scripps Green Hospital.
The case is considered a presumptive positive until test results are confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scripps has taken cautionary measures and sent any staff who may have been exposed to home quarantine with hospital support.
Although the patient is considered the county's first coronavirus case, the illness has had a presence in the San Diego area. Last week, authorities confirmed that a person who works at an AT&T retail store in Chula Vista had tested positive for the illness, prompting the temporary closure of some AT&T stores in the area. That patient was not considered a San Diego County case because the person actually lives in Orange County.
The county also had two previous coronavirus cases from among more than 200 people who were being housed under quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar after being evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. Those two patients have both since recovered.
According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.
Currently, there is no vaccine; however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
WHY HEALTH OFFICIALS ARE SO CONCERNED
Some people have compared the low overall death toll to the flu's high annual death toll in the United States as a reason not to be concerned about COVID-19, however, doctors and health officials are concerned for three main reasons:
There's no vaccine yet and won't be one for until early 2021, at the soonest. Scientists are still researching what other medications could help patients.
Some people have built up immunity to the flu, but few have immunity to COVID-19 version of coronavirus.
Both the flu and COVID-19 are spread by droplets, but COVID-19 might be spread in the air. Scientists are researching exactly how COVID-19 spreads.