NIMBY Politics Sway the Fight to Contain Coronavirus

A week after the Orange County city of Costa Mesa filed a restraining order against the federal government and the state of California over the use of a state-owned facility as an isolation site for coronavirus patients, the feds dropped the plan.

March 4, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


The Princess Cruise Ship, site of a Coronavirus outbreak, pictured off the California on February 7, 2020. | Mary at T-Comms / Shutterstock

The state and federal government lost an opportunity to help contain the deadly coronavirus after U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton granted the request by the Orange County city of Costa Mesa for a temporary restraining order [pdf] on Feb. 21 to prevent the use of the state-owned, 114-acre Fairview Developmental Center as an isolation center for patients who were exposed to the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

A week later, "Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Beck wrote in Friday’s [court] filing that 'the federal government has no plans to use the Fairview Developmental Center, or any other facility in Costa Mesa, to house individuals who have tested positive for COVID-'19,” reported Faith E. Pinho and Hillary Davis for the Daily Pilot, published by the Los Angeles Times to serve the communities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa in Orange County, California.

Costa Mesa's legal action had proven effective, but its impact was noted by the California Department of Public Health in a Feb. 28 update on the outbreak of the respiratory illness:

The temporary restraining order prevented Fairview from being available at a time when it was critically needed. Having people who are not sick occupying available hospital beds placed a burden on the health care system and limits critical access for patients in a time of great need.​​

The city of 114,000 has launched a webpage asking residents to take action to prevent the site, one of four state-operated facilities within the California Department of Developmental Services, from being used as a quarantine center.

“While we have nothing but compassion for those who are suffering from this virus, the health and welfare of our community is our top priority," Mayor Katrina Foley said in a statement after Judge Staton extended the temporary restraining order on Feb. 24. "Bringing those infected into this densely populated area is simply the wrong approach.”

"In a statement Friday [Feb. 28] afternoon, the California Health and Human Services Agency said the federal government informed the state that the Fairview Developmental Center was no longer needed, since passengers testing positive for COVID-19 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who would have been sent to Fairview, were at “the imminent end of [their] isolation," added Pinho and Davis.

"The 140 passengers who were quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in California were released Monday, said Rachel Brinegar, a base spokeswoman," wrote Curtis Tate for USA TODAY on Monday, March 2, on the status of the 380 Americans who were on board the Diamond Princess ship for the duration of the cruise and quarantine at sea. 

There are currently 45 confirmed American cases out of more than 700 total coronavirus cases from the cruise ship.

The Diamond Princess evacuees were sent primarily to Lackland [Air Force Base in Texas] and Travis military bases to complete a new two-week quarantine. Others were sent to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, which has a highly specialized infectious disease containment unit. Patients during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014 were sent there.

Coronavirus update, March 2

Worldwide tracking by Johns Hopkins University shows the number of cases topped 90,000 Monday, with more than 3,000 deaths, most of them in China. South Korea, Iran, and Italy have the highest number outside China. The website also note that almost 48,000 patients have recovered.

In the U.S., six people have died, all in the Seattle area. King County in Washington "announced an emergency declaration on Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases there rose to 14, including five deaths," reports Q13 Fox.  "The sixth death was a person from Snohomish County, just north of Seattle."

The Life Care Center elder facility in Kirkland, the sixth-largest city in King County, "has become the focal point of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States," reports The New York Times.

Four of the six people who have died of the virus in this country were residents of the 190-bed nursing care facility

Several other residents and at least one employee have tested positive. One-quarter of the city’s firefighters are in quarantine as a result of recent visits, and officials said on Monday that some have developed flu-like symptoms.

The March 2 update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, shows that there are 43 total cases of coronavirus "detected and tested in the United States through U.S. public health surveillance systems since January 21, 2020. It does not include people who returned to the U.S. via State Department-chartered flights."  

Hat tip to Dan Morain of CalMatters.

Friday, February 28, 2020 in Daily Pilot (Los Angeles Times)

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