195 Quarantined in California After Fleeing Coronavirus Epicenter

The U.S. government took the rare step with American evacuees flown home from Wuhan, China, and said it would quarantine others returning from recent travel in the region.

Comments: 40

  1. The 14 days are the maximum for how long it takes from exposure, before a person show actual symptoms. However we have molecular techniques that can detect just a single viral particle (long before they have enough virus to be symptomatic). To hold everybody locked up for 14 days is an absurd overreach. This is populist panic over scientific knowledge - I am sure that order came from the White House. If it was simply just the matter of holding a small number of (this time white) people in cages for a few weeks the damage would be limited - and possibly even justified to control mass hysteria breaking out amongst the ignorant masses. But a much larger danger comes from the fact that anybody who are convinced they have something important the MUST come home for will now attempt to get around public health care. The last thing we want is a group of potentially infected people doing all they can to hide from the doctors.

  2. @Ivan , excellent point Ivan. I did not know such a technique existed. Trump must know assuming he was briefed by the CDC and others. Another bad decision on Trump's part, and one with repercussions as you pointed out so well. To the Times... can you have a reporter look into the technique Ivan is referring to?

  3. @Ivan, just because technique exists doesn't mean it is foolproof nor does it mean the equipment it requires is available

  4. @Rob D I am sure that the CDC (or any of at least the top dozen infectious disease labs in the country), could run a PCR test on two daily swabs from 195 people for 3 days in a row. We have robots that do over 10,000 PCR tests on a slow day. No technique is foolproof nor does it have to be. Even if a few % slipped through so what? Say 5 infected people were released to the next level of follow up (stay at home, take infection precautions for family members, and get daily swabs from visiting ID nurse).

  5. That's as it should be. I'd be upset, too, if I had to remain in quarantine with other possible infected passengers. But there is far bigger picture developing here. Apart from the fact that 2 weeks is very short in the scheme of things, letting people free based on only 2 days of quarantine ignores that 1 or 2 people may come down ill later. There seems to be no mention of how these passengers would be released and physically taxied home. If given the possibility that only one person, who didn't show symptoms at the time, eventually sickens, that entire household, house, utensils, furniture, clothing and anything they touched, symbolizes a fresh ground zero. If only for 2 days, why do it at all?

  6. @Al Eugene You are grossly misinformed. Any surface that has received bodily fluids containing this virus will be good to touch as soon as it has dried out. Infection takes a direct "wet event" or touching a surface that has been subject to a "wet event", before it dries out. The instruction of people in a household about how to avoid "wet events" is very simple and known to be very effective. Daily testing in the home of at risk individuals can ensure that they get hospitalized even before they are at risk of transferring the disease to other people (if "wet event" precautions fail).

  7. Better 14 days than the chance of 14 (or whatever the number may turn out to be) more infected and continuing the cycle.

  8. @TED338 That number is 2.6 if we assume that the person jailed actually has been infected. Given that at most 1 out of 10 potentially infected people are actually infected (in reality its much less) the number becomes less than 0.26. However, those people are not just send home without instruction or monitoring so cut the number by at least a factor of two. So now we are down to that we save at most 0.13 infections per person getting 14 days in jail. The other side of that equation is the number of increases in infections when most of the potentially infected people begin to hide from authorities because they don't have time to spend 14 days in jail (because of some stupid epidemic of paranoia.

  9. Think of this from the view of an informed citizen who may have been in contact with an infected individual. The probability that they are infected is VERY low (each infected person has hundreds of contacts with known or unknown people yet infects only 2-3 people on average). Even if they have been infected, there is less than 20% chance of serious illness and less than 2% chance of death. If they were among those extremely, extremely unlucky people, the medical system cannot help them much anyway. So being “found” and diagnosed has no real upside for that person (except for helping others). Mandatory and excessive jailing of people who may have been infected creates a huge downside to being found and diagnosed with this virus. If you have an important business, family or personal event coming up within the next few weeks will you come forward to a certain 2 weeks in jail – even if there is a less than 1% chance that you have the virus. Even if you had the virus you could take precautions against transferring it to your loved ones. If we give mandatory 2 weeks jail to anybody who may be infected we will make it very hard to get the transmission rate down below 1.0 and we will almost certainly end up with a real epidemic and a serious problem.

  10. @Ivan If they didn't like the terms of their travel, they were free to stay in Wuhan. This was an exceptional situation, and it is ok to treat it as such. The career diplomats in the group are probably still getting paid while under quarantine anyway.

  11. @Kira There is no more scientific justification for locking these people up for 14 days than there is for locking up everybody who comes down with the symptoms of a cold. The symptoms of this virus and a cold are the same. Would you consider it acceptable that we put everybody with cold symptoms in jail for 14 days?

  12. @Ivan You're fear mongering. Being in quarantine is far more comfortable than being in jail.

  13. There is a lot of second guessing going on by many who have the luxury of hindsight. Already, we have sequenced the virus, have a rapid test for it, and know how it is spread. We also know that a certain number of cases are relatively minor and a crude death rate. This is because of superb global epidemiologists and not because of thoughts and prayers. Think of that next November when you vote for reps and Senators, as well as president. This knowledge is valuable and only if we decide in this country it is worthwhile, will we continue to have it. I was in the first Sabin vaccine cohort, after I got the Salk vaccine. I'm alive today probably because of that, vaccines, and penicillin for my multiple strep throats.

  14. @Mike S. Much maligned scientists step into the breach. Around the clock efforts, collaboration between countries, and sharing of information. Yes - you need to be quarantined - at some point China needs to share data on the vulnerable and maybe they have. Another media frenzy:(

  15. I can't help but wondering if this virus has already spread far and wide. Many of us in Oregon have been dealing with a nasty "cold" virus that lingers. When my wife went to the doctor she was given a breathing treatment, told she likely had a virus, and sent home with an inhaler prescription. No tests or screening yet she had the symptoms listed. One has to wonder....

  16. @Kttail No, it is very unlikely that your wife has this unless she was directly exposed to a person who came directly from the affected region in China.

  17. @Kttail Don't wonder. Insist on being tested.

  18. Yes! In LAX many have been coming down with a nasty cold that just exhausts you. My two littles who seldom nap were taking 4 naps a day and it took them 10 days to fully recover. We got a light version of it and it has definitely lingered. Prob not Wuhan Coronavirus but another coronavirus.

  19. This is a new strain of pneumonia, no more, no less. Transmission and mortality rates are no different than other strains of pneumonia which kills millions world wide every year. The hysteria over a disease that can no longer be contained benefits no one.

  20. @Jack C It's literally not pneumonia. At all. It's an upper respiratory virus, like the cold and flu. Like other upper respiratory viruses, some infected people may develop lower respiratory infections, like bronchitis or pneumonia, but most don't. The common condition it's most similar to is a flu and is comparable in lethality. The difference is that there is no widespread immunity to it like there is with most flu strains. If everyone infected developed pneumonia, the rate of fatalities would probably be much higher.

  21. @Jack C How can you say so definitely that this epidemic is not containable (outside China) and why is it a bad idea to try?

  22. @Jack C I am afraid you do not have all the facts. This virus has already shown some unusual characteristics which is cause for concern. The most important being that those who died got suddenly seriously ill in the second week of illness. This is very unusual for viral infections. Most patients who die of flu get rapidly ill in the first week unlike this virus.

  23. Is it my imagination or are the powers that be pulling out all the stops for this virus, and at the same time telling us it's not that dangerous?

  24. @Celeste -Prudent medical science research shows that extraordinary efforts at prevention and containment greatly reduces the risk of epidemic. We do this with all contagious diseases, relative to the risk. With so much unknown about this virus, CDC efforts are reasonable.

  25. @Celeste You have to remember that the only powers that be, these days, is a germophobe fool who thinks he knows more than all the experts. So yes the experts looking at this considers it serious but not that big a deal to handle. They know that when this is all over there will be at least 10 times more death from the current flu epidemic than from this. However, our government actions are not guided by expert advice or knowledge.

  26. @celeste it took our country about a week more than other European countries to stop being reactive and start being proactive. I called my elected officials to support a 14 day quarantine for those coming in from Wuhan way before it was reported in the media.

  27. No one was fleeing. These folks left on a plane chartered by the United States. For no good reason. They could have stayed where they were. Now 330,000,000 people are at risk because 195 people did not want to be inconvenienced.

  28. @Willt26 With the current transfer rates and given that they all have tested negative for the virus repeatedly since arrival, there is about as big a chance of just one of them becoming sick and infecting someone else as there is a chance of me becoming President (I ain't running). To say that these people bring risk to the whole US population is as true as to say that if they all put on tin foil hats, 330,000,000 people would be put at risk of being hit by lightning.

  29. The majority of them work for the federal government. I’m sure they will treated well at a US military base and receive more than adequate food and use of personal hygiene facilities. I can’t say the same for the families who are being torn apart and separated at our southern border.

  30. There is a back story to this evacuation that seems to have escaped the attention of the media. In a related NYT article earlier today, one of the US evacuees quarantined for 2 weeks at March Air Reserve Base described the flight: “They were trying to keep us calm, but they had these guys covered from head to toe taking your temperature. It felt like a C.I.A. cargo plane.” The plane used was in fact a windowless 747 cargo plane into which rows of passenger seats had been inserted. The airline, Kalitta Air, was formed in 1967 during the time the US was using off-brand airlines, some of them funded or hired by the CIA or DoD, to transport weapons, personnel and materiel in the Vietnam theater and Asian. Kalitta continues to carry cargo for the US government and others, with regular destinations including Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan; Guantanamo, Cuba; Medellin, Colombia; Osan Air Base, South Korea; and two UK air bases. Kalitta Air also serves non-military airports. Other nations evacuating their citizens from China are using regular passenger airliners rather than cargo planes, which makes one wonder why the US government chose to take the extra time needed to re-fit a cargo plane, and whether such a plane will be used when the US evacuates more citizens from China in the next week. While an interesting story lurks somewhere in the details, all of us of course owe Kalitta thanks for rescuing our fellow Americans from the hot zone of the coronavirus outbreak.

  31. @Mon Ray Military brat here; this strikes me as the government being the government. I've been on a few of these cargo flights and can now smell the canvas. I am sure that there is ample entertainment for those who are being quarantined and probably the Red Cross is assisting as well, if I was to venture a guess

  32. You know, the way China is reacting, now the US. It seems to be more to this, than what they are telling. There's an abundance of caution, and then there is a cover up of something far worse.

  33. @Al Morgan The sad story of these reactions are that they are driven by politicians responding to public panic. That panic is driven by ignorance. People get their "information" about epidemiology from Hollywood (or their favorite conspiracy website). Furthermore, "news organizations" make money from the panic. Even highly respected NYT had just one informational article blending facts with the scientific context of those facts. Finally even some epidemiologists prefer that people panic - it gives them more funding to do their job and also get the public to behave responsibly (cough/sneeze into your shoulder, wash hands 30 seconds with soap, stay home if sick - and all that other good stuff everybody usually ignores).

  34. Fascinating that we want to lock up people we have never met for fourteen days, and disrupt the word economy to slow the progress of this virus and still support cutting the funding of the CDC that can and has in the past shut down the spread of disease. Does Daniel Kahneman still stand by his assertion that mankind is rational?

  35. I am perplexed at all of the information shared in the comments to this article that are presented as facts, when we readers have absolutely no way to assess the credentials of the commenters making these assertions. Be careful.

  36. @CatPerson I agree that it is difficult to sort and judge reliability of information from comments like these. For someone who is not in the field I would suggest that websites such as Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) provide lay-people "digested" information of the highest quality. They also give a lot of links to the origins of their "digested" information - so if you want you can dig into more primary information and judge for yourself. Sometimes it's just simple logic. A virus that on the average transfers to just 2.6 other people (and so far only reports of transfer to close contact people) - is not going to create a Hollywood scenario of a sick person walking through a mall and a few days later thousands of people drop to the floor with boils and gasping for air.

  37. Virtually all other countries have been quarantining returnees for 2 weeks, not 3 days; what is peculiar is that the US kept saying the returnees would be held for only 3 days.

  38. The death rate reported by China has remained fixed at two percent of the reported new cases, so far. That is very suspicious. It could be that China is managing the information to manage public perceptions. If so, nobody should listen to them but focus on information that is honestly reported, and plan accordingly.

  39. Sources such as AP, and ABC have alleged that upwards to 600 American citizens and their spouses, and children were left behind in the Wuhan area. Either unable to find transportation to the outbound flight. Or, unable to communicate with American authorities in China, who wouldn't answer phones or email. Not permitted to bring spouses and children because of bureaucratic red tape, some were forced to stay behind. This outbreak is terrifying because Mr Trumps American is not science based. Mr Trumps American is based on a faith that only those that help Mr Trump fawn over himself will be helped. Science save us, because Mr Trump and his demagoguery. will not