American passengers who were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan will not be coming to Alabama, lawmakers say. This comes after a statement released Saturday by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said they had come to an agreement with FEMA to house quarantined Americans at the Center for Domestic Preparedness facility in Anniston.
On Sunday, the Alabama Department of Public Health released a statement clarifying that the Anniston facility is currently only being considered as a “back-up” location and there are no patients scheduled to come to Alabama at this time.
Senator Richard Shelby tweeted Sunday that he spoke with President Trump who said “his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama.”
Governor Kay Ivey echoed Shelby in a re-tweet of his statement, adding that the President called to assure her “this plan will not move forward.”
In a press release Sunday, Gov. Kay Ivey said in part, “On Saturday, it appears that a press release from HHS was inadvertently, and perhaps prematurely, sent notifying the State of Alabama that these individuals were scheduled to begin transporting to Alabama as early as Wednesday.”
Later in the release, Ivey said that after a number of conversations between various top officials, she and her staff were informed “that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a ‘back-up’ plan, in case they run out of alternative locations,” and that “no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston.”
Also on Sunday, U.S. Representative Mike Rogers tweeted he had also spoken to President Trump, as well as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and said “the plan to house the Americans exposed to Coronavirus at the CDP in Anniston has thankfully been cancelled.”
According to the Alabama Political Reporter, Anniston City Council members discussed the possibility of suing the federal government to block the transfer of Coronavirus patients to Anniston, and council members approved a resolution that would authorize the Anniston city attorney and city manager to “seek legal counsel with respect to all options we may have at this point, but not to specifically authorize any immediate filing.”
During this meeting, Anniston Mayor Jack Draper said staff from Sen. Shelby’s office and HHS officials would meet in Anniston around noon Sunday, Feb. 23.
“I do think that it is important that we have all options available to us. We clearly have to be concerned about the health of our community,” Draper said. “At the same time I think we have to recognize that the eyes of the nation and possibly the eyes of the world are upon us now as well, and these are fellow Americans who have contracted this horrible disease, and we are in partnership with all our fellow Americans.”
During a meeting at the Calhoun County Commission, commissioners told attendees the plan to bring American Coronavirus patients to Anniston was off.
“I think that’s a good thing for the city and the county,” Commissioner Tim Hodges said.
According the Alabama Political Reporter, Mayor Draper announced during the commission meeting the City Council would meet again on Monday, Feb. 24, at 9:00 a.m. to decide whether to take legal action.
Read the Alabama Department of Public Health’s statement, released Sunday, Feb. 23, on the use of the CDP facility in Anniston as a “back-up” location for American Coronavirus patients below:
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has learned that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has evaluated the possibility of using the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama, as a backup location for some Americans infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 (also known as 2019-nCOV or novel coronavirus).
HHS has stated that this is only a contingency plan and that there are no patients currently scheduled to be transferred to the Anniston facility. According to HHS, the FEMA Center would only be used as a backup if facilities in other states are unable to handle these passengers.
HHS is planning to meet today with local officials in Anniston to discuss this plan. Americans were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated by the federal government to the U.S. from Japan.
ADPH will release additional information as it is received from HHS.”Alabama Department of Public Health
Read the full statement released Saturday, Feb. 22, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services below:
HHS is taking precautions to protect the health of all Americans from Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). To that end, HHS and FEMA agreed to use a federal facility, the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama, as a place for some of the American passengers from the Diamond Princess to stay. These are passengers whom the federal government evacuated back to the U.S. from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
The passengers who will stay at the Center tested positive for COVID-19, although at this time they either do not have symptoms or have mild flu-like symptoms. Any of the evacuees who become seriously ill will be transported to pre-identified hospitals for medical care. Under the HHS-FEMA agreement, the Center for Domestic Preparedness will provide the housing, and HHS will provide basic medical care and all other support services for these returning passengers. Passengers will stay in a separate area from the Center’s training participants and will remain at the Center until they are medically cleared.
The Center has unique facilities and routinely offers week-long, hands-on training for large groups of professionals from federal, state and local emergency management agencies, hospitals, public health agencies, and law enforcement agencies on disaster response.”US Department of Health and Human Services
You can get the latest information on the Coronavirus from the CDC here.
For more information about the Center of Domestic Preparedness, click here.
You can also stay up-to-date on the latest information on the Coronavirus from the Alabama Department of Public Health here.
Fox10 and the Alabama Political Reporter contributed to this story.