Pentagon to provide housing for up to 1,000 people over coronavirus concerns

(CNN) -- The Pentagon said Saturday that Defense Secretary Mark Esper has approved a request to provide military housing for up to 1,000 people who may need to be quarantined upon arrival in the United States from overseas travel due to concerns about possible infection from coronavirus.

The Pentagon said the Department of Health and Human Services requested that the Defense Department provide several facilities capable of housing at least 250 people in individual rooms through February 29.

"Under the request, DOD will only provide housing support, while HHS will be responsible for all care, transportation, and security of the evacuees. DOD personnel will not be directly in contact with the evacuees and evacuees will not have access to any base location other than their assigned housing," the Pentagon said in a statement.

"In accordance with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, all evacuees will be monitored for a period of 14 days. Should routine monitoring of the evacuees identify ill individuals, HHS has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital," the statement continued.

The coronavirus outbreak has killed at least 259 people and infected close to 12,000 people globally, as it continues to spread beyond China.

For comparison, in the 2019-2020 season so far, at least 19 million people in the US have gotten the flu and 10,000 people have died from it, including at least 68 children. Flu activity has been widespread in nearly every region, with high levels of activity in 41 states, the CDC reported this week.

The CDC is the only lab in the United States that can confirm cases of the novel coronavirus. It said Friday there are 241 patients under investigation in 36 states. Among them, 114 had tested negative and 121 had results pending.

The US government on Friday declared the virus a public health emergency.

Esper's approval comes after an eighth case of coronavirus in the United States was confirmed in a Boston man in his 20s, according to health officials earlier on Saturday.

The man recently returned from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, Boston and Massachusetts health officials said in a press release.

The man sought medical care soon after his return, according to the release, and he's been isolated since then. His few close contacts have been identified and are being monitored for symptoms.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the Boston Public Health Commission were notified late Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the positive test results.

"Our priority is not only to protect and inform the residents of Boston but also to help this man continue to recover," Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Rita Nieves said. "We are pleased that he is doing well."

Nieves said the risk to the general population "remains low."

"And we continue to be confident we are in a good position to respond to this developing situation," Nieves said.

This is the first case in Massachusetts. There are three confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in California, one in Washington state, one in Arizona and two in Illinois. The second Illinois case is the first instance of person-to-person transmission in the United States.

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