Costa Mesa Officials Address Growing Concerns Over Possible Transfer Of Up To 50 Coronavirus Patients To City

COSTA MESA (CBSLA) – Costa Mesa city officials addressed the public Saturday regarding concerns over the possible transfer of confirmed coronavirus patients to the city.

Mayor Katrina Foley said the city was blindsided by the federal government’s plan to transfer coronavirus patients to Costa Mesa.

At a press conference, officials including Mayor Katrina Foley gathered to answer questions about the injunction filed to block the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health from transferring as many as 50 patients who have tested positive for coronavirus from Sacramento to the city’s Fairview Developmental Center.

“We saw it on the news this morning,” said Santa Ana resident William Hart, who attended the meeting. “We were shocked. We didn’t know this was happening. My wife’s been crying all day.”

Federal court papers filed Friday state that the federal government planned to transfer the patients from Travis Air Force Base on Sunday or Monday. Thursday night, Costa Mesa city officials began hearing of the plan to move between 30 and 50 patients to the state-owned land.

Foley said the city was surprised to learn that the Fairview Developmental Center was being considered for a group of patients who have tested positive for coronavirus, and city leaders filed an injunction to block the transfer in an effort to protect residents.

“We have a lot of activity in the area,” she said. “So, it’s not the kind of area that’s isolated and that would be appropriate for quarantining people who have an infectious disease.”

A federal judge Friday granted the city of Costa Mesa’s temporary restraining order requesting to block the transfer.

The largest concern was the lack of information, despite the fact that the patients were expected to arrive in a matter of days, said Costa Mesa fire chief Dan Stefano.

“There has not been an information flow, and in a situation like that, for us, it creates the greatest concern,” he said.

Officials said the patients are California residents and may be coming from the Diamond Princess cruise ship from which more than 300 U.S. citizens were removed Monday.

City manager Loriann Farrell Harrison said the city needs to know more before feeling comfortable with the transfer.

“The reason that we have followed through with an injunction is because we don’t have a lot of information. We would like to know more about who the individuals are,” she said.

The California Health and Human Services Agency released a statement Saturday regarding the possible transfer of coronavirus patients to Costa Mesa.

“The federal quarantine of former Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers at Travis Air Force Base remains a federal operation,” the statement said. “California has been working hard to support this federal effort in a way that ensures the public health and safety of our communities and the passengers themselves.”

According to the statement, the federal government has determined that anyone testing positive for coronavirus cannot stay at Travis Air Force Base, and the Fairview Developmental Center is one of the locations under consideration to quarantine the patients until the infection has cleared.

“If Fairview were chosen, the federal government would be responsible for providing health care – easing the burden on our hospitals during flu season – and for providing robust security to ensure the public safety and public health of the surrounding community,” the statement said.

In the injunction, the city of Costa Mesa said it seeks to stop the transfer until “an adequate site survey has been conducted, the designated site has been determined suitable for this purpose, all necessary safeguards and precautions have been put in place, and the public and local government have been informed of all efforts to mitigate risk of transmission of the disease.”

The temporary injunction holds off the transfer of patients until Monday, when a federal judge will hear the case.

As of Feb. 21, the CDC had only confirmed 35 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., with California’s confirmed total at 15.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)