Travis Air Force Base discusses coronavirus at town hall held for military families

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- As more cases of the deadly coronavirus from China surface in the U.S., American health officials are taking proactive steps to stop the outbreak’s rapid spread.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper put four U.S. military bases on standby to house travelers from overseas who may need to be quarantined. One of the bases tapped to assist the Department of Health and Human Services was Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield.

“I just think it’s close to home,” said Fairfield resident Wanda Paige.

Although the base said it is not housing any evacuees yet, some people who live near the station said Monday they were concerned about what’s to come.

“I think we’re afraid because we don’t know much about it. We’re afraid of the unknown,” Paige told FOX40. “I don’t know what precautions we’re supposed to take. What are we supposed to do?”

But others in the neighborhood said bases like Travis AFB are well-equipped to help monitor the health threat.

“They have all the resources to take care of it, so I’m totally in agreement with it. We’ve got to take care of people,” said nearby resident Phillip Cullivan.

Travis Air Force Base offers about 1,800 family units where military spouses and children live. A town hall was held for them Monday night hosted by members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chris Rodriguez is one of the more than 14,000 people who work on the base and said necessary procedures are in place to keep people safe.

“I guess don’t really have any concerns. It's not like people with the actual virus,” he said. “It's just people in China just coming over. It's just to prevent any more spread.”

According to a military statement, the base will only provide housing for overseas travelers, with the Department of Health and Human Services tasked with providing care, transportation and security.

Officials with the base also noted that personnel will not have direct contact with evacuees, which brought some comfort to those in the surrounding area.

“I’m not worried about it right now,” Cullivan told FOX40. “Maybe in a few months if things get worse."

Congressman John Garamendi, D-California, told FOX40 there is not a lot of information coming out of the CDC nor the Air Force about who is being brought to Travis Air Force Base for coronavirus quarantine.

“In the near term, Travis will be selected. Not only as a base but there will be evacuees there soon,” Garamendi said. "Are they American contractors, citizens, diplomats, other folks that are in China providing services of all kinds? I hope to find out.”

While there were no evacuees on the base Monday, Garamendi said their numbers could be in the hundreds once they come.

Garamendi told FOX40, based on his understanding, the Air Force is only providing facilities for the evacuees while CDC personnel is providing staffing.

“There’s going to have to be people providing food service. Other kinds of services will be necessary. What precautions will those people have?” Garamendi asked.

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Meanwhile, local universities are keeping a close eye on the virus in China.

“The California State University system has prohibited all travel to China and until that is lifted, we will not be sending our students there," said Dr. Paul Hofmann with Sac State's International Programs and Global Engagement.

At Sac State there are currently 45 students from mainland China, none of whom are from Wuhan itself.

“They’re free to go back and travel. We’re providing them guidance that they should not go to China at this time. Our hope is to keep our students here to keep the entire campus community safe and disease-free,” explained Hofmann.

School spokeswoman Anita Fitzhugh said there are two faculty-led study abroad programs in China slated for the summer, but those trips will only happen if the chancellor’s office clears them for travel.

Health officials said the risk of the coronavirus spreading person-to-person within the U.S. is extremely low.

University of California, Davis said its study abroad program in China is scheduled to start in late June.

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