The City of Costa Mesa, like the coronavirus itself, has done something novel: issued a restraining order against COVID-19 infectees from entering the SoCal metropolis.
Reported by The New York Times, it was unveiled that about 50 patients aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan — who were later transferred to NorCal's Travis Air Force Base — were bound for an almost empty mental health hospital in Costa Mesa, until the mayor and various council members secured their borders by issuing a restraining order against “an influx of coronavirus patients.” This past Friday, U.S. District Judge Josephine L. Staton granted the city's aforementioned emergency restraining order request, raising a new ethical question: Should a city bar coronavirus patients from seeking treatment in order to safeguard their communities?
UPDATE: Judge Josephine Staton issued a Temporary Restraining Order preventing the transportation of persons infected with or exposed to the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) to any place within Costa Mesa until an expedited hearing can be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, February 24.— City of Costa Mesa (@CityofCostaMesa) February 22, 2020
Regardless, this isn’t the first time such a forced exile has been pushed to thwart the spread of a disease. The New York Times reminded its readership that the towns in the American South protected themselves against yellow fever in the 19th century by refusing to allow transients to come enter. A similar quarantine happened during the rise of Spanish Flu in 1918 when various areas across the country shut down transportation and set up quarantines to keep out people who showed symptoms of the influenza strain.
Fast-forward some hundred years, and Costa Mesa’s enforced sequestration has garnered praise from politicians.
"I applaud the County, my colleagues and the City of Costa Mesa for trying to block the use of local facilities to house infected individuals, [because] while we want to treat those infected humanely, we must also protect the public's health," Orange County Supervisor Donald P. Wagner said to Patch. "It does no good to spread this contagious virus around in uninfected locales; we must act intelligently to prevent a senseless outbreak locally."
Support of the decision, too, came from the Costa Mesa residents that packed the courtroom yesterday for another hearing on the situation, where local officials said that patients infected with coronavirus should not be brought for treatment to the city's near-defunct mental health intuition, The Fairview Developmental Center; only two people are currently being treated the facility for mental health illnesses, with almost all the staff having left the medical campus.
Katrina Foley, Costa Mesa’s mayor — who spearheaded the initiated after local experts warned the virus could “spread through the air vents” at the almost vacant facility — also believes this protective measure is, per her words, movie-worthy.
"[This situation is] right out of a movie," she wrote in a letter to constituents late Saturday. "Some even believed it was a hoax at first, but sadly, it's not.”
She pens more in her note, calling out the State’s irrational action to move these patients to a populous area: “Who would believe that a federal agency could decide to transfer persons infected with the contagious coronavirus into Costa Mesa, right in the heart of our residential densely populated community?”
To Foley’s point, it appears that Costa Mesa wasn’t even involved in the process of the State deciding to designate The Fairview Developmental Center as a treatment facility for COVID-19.
“The city has not been part of any of the processes that led to the consideration of the site, and it would be unfair to not include us in this kind of significant decision that has a great impact on our community,” Mayor Katrina Foley told the Orange County Register.
It goes without question that this recent coronavirus containment update is an “aggressive approach” to safeguarding the masses, but it also brings to the forefront an ethical conundrum as to what’s best for those contaminated with the coronavirus — and for those who are in danger of becoming infected.
Judge Josephine L. Staton’s restraining order stands as-is till March 2nd when she will then reconsider the issue after both state and federal authorities present further details about how each plans to protect the Costa Mesa community, as well as those afflicted with coronavirus.
This news comes days after it was revealed the current White House’s recent budget called for a 10 percent cut in the Center for Disease Control (CDC) funding. To add insult to injury, the Trump administration fired the government’s entire pandemic response chain of command back in 2018 — leaving us fairly “incompetent” to handle a like-situation on our soils.
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Image: Wikimedia Commons