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Cruise ship passengers to be quarantined at military bases in 3 states; US Army stops troops moving to and from South Korea, Italy for new assignments

The California Air National Guard's 129th Rescue Wing was called upon to deliver coronavirus test kits to the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California after a passenger from the previous cruise died from the virus and two others were hospitalized.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says American passengers of the Grand Princess cruise ship will be taken to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and for a 14-day quarantine.

The department said Sunday nearly 1,000 California residents will complete the mandatory quarantine at Travis Air Force Base north of San Francisco and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego. Residents of other states will complete the mandatory quarantine at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

It says all will be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19 throughout their quarantine.

The Grand Princess ship, which is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries, is expected to dock at the Port of Oakland, California, on Monday.

Federal officials say the Department of State is working with the home countries of several hundred passengers to arrange for repatriation to their countries.

“Approximately 90 Texans” are among the unspecified number of U.S. citizens expected to arrive at Lackland Air Force Base, according to a news release from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. It was not clear when the group would arrive.

“All of the repatriated citizens will remain at Lackland under quarantine until they clear the revised and heightened testing protocol to ensure they are not affected by the COVID-19 virus,” Abbot said.

Once the passengers are cleared of the testing protocol, the Texans will be released to return home and the others will be returned returned to their home states using a safety method developed for previous cruise ship passengers taken to Lackland.

The plan was developed after one woman was mistakenly released after testing positive for the virus and the city of San Antonio declared a public health emergency and filed a lawsuit over the woman’s release.

This Feb. 2, 2020, photo provided by the Department of Defense shows empty lodging facilities at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Todd Holly/U.S. Air Force via AP)
This Feb. 2, 2020, photo provided by the Department of Defense shows empty lodging facilities at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Todd Holly/U.S. Air Force via AP)

Thirty-four Georgians are among the U.S. citizens expected to arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta on either Monday night or Tuesday morning, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news release.

Kemp said people from other eastern U.S. states would also be quarantined at the military base, but he did not specify how many.

“I am confident that Dobbins is equipped to provide high-quality care for Americans in need while keeping Georgia families safe, and our state stands ready to assist our federal partners if requested,” Kemp said.

The Grand Princess is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries. It is expected to dock in Oakland, California, on Monday. At least 21 people aboard the ship, including 19 crew members, have tested positive for the virus, Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday.

“In the days and weeks ahead, I encourage Georgians to pray for the patients affected by COVID-19 and their health-care providers,” Kemp said. “We must continue to support one another, trust the advice of the medical community, and remain vigilant.”

In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, photo, a man passes by U.S. Army base Camp Walker, in Daegu, South Korea. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)
In this Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, photo, a man passes by U.S. Army base Camp Walker, in Daegu, South Korea. (Kim Hyun-tae/Yonhap via AP)

The U.S. Army issued an order stopping all soldiers and their families from making permanent change of station moves to and from South Korea and Italy until May 6, Military Times has learned. On Sunday, U.S. Forces Korea issued a tweet saying it was aware of the order, which also applies to soldiers scheduled to attend professional military education in the United States.

South Korea has the largest outbreak in Asia outside of mainland China, where the new coronavirus first emerged. The U.S. and South Korea announced Feb. 28 that annual joint military drills were postponed due to concerns of the virus. One American soldier and about two dozen South Korean soldiers tested positive for the illness at the time of the announcement. There are about 28,500 American service members stationed on the Korean Peninsula.

A Marine stationed at Fort Belvoir in Virginia tested positive for the virus on Saturday, the first military case of coronavirus inside the United States, while a U.S. Navy sailor in Italy has tested positive.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates. Military Times staff contributed to this report.

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