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The first round of coronavirus evacuees at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland were released on Thursday after completing a two-week mandatory quarantine.
Of the 91 evacuees, one remains in treatment at a local hospital. The patient was transferred out of Methodist Texsan Hospital on Thursday for continued treatment at an area hospital, Methodist Healthcare said in a statement. No information was provided regarding which hospital would continue treatment.
The release of evacuees comes amid controversy surrounding their admission to civilian hospitals in San Antonio after arriving for quarantine on the Air Force base. Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert called this protocol a mistake on Wednesday, saying evacuees should be taken to less populous areas of the country.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) met with City, County, and State Department officials on Thursday, and told the Rivard Report that in response to growing concern over the risk of exposure to civilians and health care professionals, local protocol had changed allowing for testing for the novel coronavirus to take place on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, as opposed to transporting people to area hospitals.
“One of the concerns that the mayor expressed is that local hospitals don’t have the capacity to deal with a large number of individuals who may become infected,” Cornyn said regarding the decision to keep evacuees on base for testing. “A large number of people [remain] in quarantine who could become symptomatic and will need treatment.”
The Department of State Health Services and local public health officials said that if any of the remaining 144 evacuees need treatment, they will likely be evacuated and “cared for in an appropriate health care facility so they will not be a danger to the larger community,” Cornyn said.
This announcement came before an unknown number of patients on Tuesday and Wednesday were transported from Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland to a 22-bed wing of the Texas Center for Infectious Disease, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The 75-bed hospital typically treats only tuberculosis patients, but state officials reserved a separate wing to house people suspected of having coronavirus, as well as infected patients who are experiencing mild symptoms.
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Calvert and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff both recently expressed concern about any movement of potentially infected coronavirus patients, saying either the federal government should remain in charge of these patients throughout treatment, or the reins should be handed over to local government to ensure best practices and safety of San Antonio residents and health care providers.
Cornyn said that while people are concerned with how coronavirus evacuees are being treated in the U.S., his biggest concern is “how China has mishandled this situation.”
“Because China is afraid of being given bad press, they have simply shut down and are not being transparent,” he said. “They have shut down their borders to the World Health Organization and the United States, who have been willing to help.”