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Coronavirus prompts first CDC quarantine order in over 50 years: 'We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic'

'We would rather be remembered for overreacting than under-reacting'

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first quarantine order in more than five decades in response to the rapid spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, an agency official said Friday.

The CDC placed the quarantine order on a group of 195 Americans who were evacuated from China earlier this week and flown to California, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a teleconference. She also explained that "while we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented health threat."

The CDC also outlined its actions in a subsequent tweet and explained that the quarantine would last 14 days from when the plane left Wuhan, China, the city at the epicenter of the current outbreak.

KABC-TV reported Thursday that the flight of evacuees landed at March Air Reserve Base in southern California on Wednesday after a stop in Anchorage, Alaska, and that the passengers were medically screened twice in both China and Alaska. Initial reports said there were more than 200 people on the flight, but CDC later corrected that to 195, the story noted.

"We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic, but we are hopeful still that this is not and will not be the case." Messonnier told reporters.

"This is the first time in over 50 years that CDC has issued a quarantine order," Messonnier explained to reporters, while also stressing that the move was being made out of an abundance of caution. "While we understand this action may seem drastic, our goal today, tomorrow and always continues to be the safety of the American public; we would rather be remembered for overreacting than under-reacting."

Messonnier said the presence of the quarantined individuals on the base is not believed to pose any threat to nearby residents.

The CDC's announcement came one day after the World Health Organization declared the ongoing viral outbreak to be a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern," which the organization defines as "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response."

Meanwhile, the virus' rapid spread continues. According to Reuters, a Chinese official said Friday morning that the number of deaths resulting from the virus had hit 213 and the number of confirmed cases in the country had risen to over 9,800.

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