Judge to hear plan to move virus patients to California city

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge will hold a hearing Monday over a proposal to house former cruise ship passengers infected with a new virus at a Southern California complex that used to be for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton will hear arguments after she temporarily blocked a plan by U.S. officials to relocate people who test positive for the new coronavirus while quarantined at a Northern California military base to the state-owned Fairview Developmental Center in the Orange County city of Costa Mesa, which borders Newport Beach.

Local officials opposed the transfer of the people to the 114-acre (46-hectare) campus, saying they were not included in the planning process and want to know what safeguards are in place to prevent the possible transmission of the virus that has killed thousands of people, mostly in China.

The city of 113,000 filed documents in federal court to halt the transfer of passengers evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan who are under quarantine at Travis Air Force Base.

More than a third of those evacuated to the air base are from California, U.S. officials said in court filings.

They said there’s an urgent need to house those who test positive for the illness but no longer need medical care and the city doesn’t have the right to interfere with how federal and state authorities are handling the public health emergency.

State officials said passengers who test positive for the virus may need to be isolated from others for a month. U.S. officials had planned to send them to the Federal Emergency Management Center in Alabama, but California officials felt doing so could jeopardize the evacuees’ health because many are over 65 and have other health issues.

The virus has infected more than 79,000 people globally and caused more than 2,600 deaths, most of them in China.