Texas Could Receive More Coronavirus Evacuees

The Pentagon has designated 11 additional military bases near U.S. airports as possible quarantine centers for Americans fleeing the coronavirus outbreak in China. One of the bases added to the list is Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base near DFW Airport. Each of the new bases can house up to 20 people. Evacuees are being quarantined for 14 days to ensure they have no symptoms or signs of the coronavirus, which has affected more than 42,000 people and resulted in more than 1,000 deaths since originating in China's Wuhan province.

The new list of bases are overflow centers in case beds fill up at other locations, so there is no word on when, if, or exactly how many evacuees would be coming to the North Texas base. There are already 91 evacuees being quarantined at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, where they arrived last week. Overall, the Pentagon has agreed to house up to 1,000 people who are returning to the U.S. from areas in China where the virus is present.

Dr. Peter Hotez from Baylor College of Medicine sits on the Governor's Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. Despite Texas convening high-level meetings to discuss a response to coronavirus, the state has not received much information about the evacuees coming here. "It's really important that we get a better understanding from the military on how they're handling this epidemic," says Hotez.

Dr. Hotez tells KTRH it is important to get a handle on the virus while most of the cases are overseas. "I'm less worried about the United States and Western Europe because we have a good health system in place," he says. "Right now, this is not a major public health threat in the United States or England, but we've seen in this one city in Wuhan (China) how quickly things can go very wrong."

There is growing hope for a treatment. Dr. Hotez's lab at Baylor is working on a possible vaccine, with the chance that a prior vaccine may be effective. "We think the SARS vaccine could potentially cross-protect against the coronavirus," he says. "And we're now in discussions about it with the federal government, as well as some European agencies and Chinese organizations."

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