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U.S. citizens exposed to coronavirus on cruise ship quarantined in Texas and California

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A doctor disinfects the entrance of a community health service center, which has an isolated section to receive patients with mild symptoms caused by the novel coronavirus and suspected patients of the virus, in the Qingshan district of Wuhan, Hubei province, China, on Feb. 2, 2020. REUTERS

Fourteen U.S. passengers arrived Monday morning at military bases in Texas and California after being evacuated from a cruise ship in Japan and testing positive for the new coronavirus, U.S. officials say.

The passengers deplaned at Travis Air Force Base in California and Joint Base San Antonio and will remain under quarantine for 14 days, the State Department said Monday in a joint statement with the Department of Health and Human Services.

“During the evacuation process, after passengers had disembarked the ship and initiated transport to the airport, U.S. officials received notice that 14 passengers, who had been tested 2-3 days earlier, had tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement read. “These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols.”

After consulting with HHS officials, the State Department made the decision to allow the passengers, who were not showing symptoms of the virus, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evaluation process, officials said.

“Passengers that develop symptoms in flight and those with positive test results will remain isolated on the flights and will be transported to an appropriate location for continued isolation and care,” they added.

On Sunday, more than 300 U.S. citizens and their immediate family members who had been passengers on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship were voluntarily flown back to the United States. The flights departed Japan Sunday afternoon and arrived in the United States Monday morning, according to the joint statement.