Experts, authorities detail coronavirus quarantine preparations, run drills at Camp Ashland

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- The 70 Americans en route to Camp Ashland for precautionary quarantine for novel coronavirus are not sick, medical experts emphasized at Thursday morning's update at the Unversity of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Living quarters like these have been prepared at Camp Ashland for 70 Americans en route from China. Due to arrive at Eppley Airfield on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, the group will continue to be monitored by the CDC for symptoms of novel coronavirus until their 14-day quarantine is over. (WOWT)

That message was emphatically repeated by local medical experts and federal authorities updating the public Thursday morning at UNMC's Buffett Cancer Center about the flight of Americans en route to Ashland from China for precautionary quarantine for coronavirus.

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One plane is expected to arrive sometime Friday. No further quarantine flights are expected at this time, but updates will be provided to the community if that changes, authorities said.

"They lived in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak and are considered at increased risk for exposure, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they'll get sick," said Dr. Eric Kasowski of the CDC, who is leading the quarantine team.

While waiting for them to arrive, personnel will conduct drills to prepare for the worst, according to a tweet from UNMC.

The rescued Americans will be traveling on contracted civilian planes that will be thoroughly cleaned afterward. Upon their arrival, as a precaution, ambulances will be on standby at Eppley Airfield, and passengers will be screened as they deplane, authorities said Thursday.

Although the action of quarantine might appear alarming, "we're acting out of an abundance of caution."

Those in quarantine are having their temperatures checked twice daily and are being asked numerous times daily about any slight changes in respiratory conditions, Kasowski said.

If any of them develop symptoms of any sort, they will be transferred to UNMC for isolation and care as needed, he said.

HAVE QUESTIONS? Douglas County Health Department has a coronavirus hotline

Holding people in quarantine during an incubation period is what prevents public infection, another UNMC official said during the press update.

Typically utilized by students or soldiers completing training, the facilities at Camp Ashland are described as simple lodging facilities resembling modest hotel rooms. Some facilities are adjoining to accommodate family units and keep families together. As the arrivals span several age groups, including children and the elderly, the teams are working with other organizations to provide activities, internet access, and other amenities.

Nebraska Medicine and UNMC are partnering with the federal government to monitor the Americans during the remainder of their quarantine at Camp Ashland. The National Guard and the Department of Defense are supporting efforts at the location as well.

The group's 14-day quarantine began when the group left Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

If someone becomes ill, they shouldn't immediately suspect coronavirus, one expert said Thursday.

Experts encouraged the public to seek out information about coronavirus from trusted sources like the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. The CDC has been updating its website daily with coronavirus information for the public.

Public officials respond

“We have the expertise at UNMC to deal with these infectious diseases. We demonstrated that with the Ebola virus," Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said at the news conference.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert's office also provided a response:

“UNMC and Nebraska Medicine are uniquely qualified to respond to public health threats. For the last week, I have participated in the planning to provide a safe facility to monitor United States citizens returning from China for symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The detailed coordination between local, state and federal partners will ensure these returning Americans, the health care professionals, and the residents of our metropolitan area are safe at all times.

"Public health and safety are our primary responsibilities and I am confident all precautions have been taken to safeguard everyone involved.”

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