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Defense secretary approves request for housing assistance to contain coronavirus

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper approved a request from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Saturday to provide housing assistance for about 1,000 overseas travelers upon arrival from China that may have to be quarantined for exposure to the coronavirus. 

The Department of Defense (DOD) will provide housing, while all other aspects of the quarantine like medical care, monitoring and transportation will be handled by HHS. 

“Under the request, DOD will only provide housing support, while HHS will be responsible for all care, transportation, and security of the evacuees” a spokesperson for the DOD said in a statement obtained by The Hill via email. 

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In addition, the statement noted that personnel from the DOD will not interact directly with the evacuees from China, and those evacuated will not have access to other locations besides the ones that have been provided and assigned to them by the DOD. 

The travelers from China will be monitored for 14 days, and further placement into a nearby hospital will be determined by HHS, should individuals’ medical condition worsen or require more immediate care. 

The announcement comes as the U.S. has evacuated 195 Americans from China this week. Those evacuees are being held by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at an airbase in California for a duration of 14 days as well. 

On Friday, President Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency and restricted travel to and from China. Earlier this week, the World Health Organization called the outbreak a global health emergency.

As of Saturday, over 12,000 cases of the virus have been reported worldwide and over 250 people have died. In addition, on Saturday, a man in Massachusetts became the eighth case of the coronavirus found in the U.S.

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