If it surprises you that something the Trump Administration said has turned out to be a lie, then you must be a Fox News devotee. Because now it looks like Mike Pence's promise to get every passenger from the Grand Princess cruise ship tested for the novel coronavirus has not been kept.
The last of the passengers onboard the ship were able to disembark last week, with about 300 crew members are still sitting in quarantine on the boat, anchored in San Francisco Bay. A total of 19 crew members tested positive for the virus but all have since recovered.
Now, as the Chronicle reports, most of the evacuated passengers who are sitting in their own 14-day quarantines at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield have not received tests, and it's because they declined them. 568 of the 858 passengers screened at this base said no to the test — and according to one anonymous official, it's because a positive result could lead to a lengthier quarantine.
The federal officials overseeing the quarantine reportedly discouraged the passengers from taking tests if they were not showing symptoms, telling them they would otherwise be in the clear after 14 days.
But what if the virus is continuing to spread undetected among this population, and someone with mild symptoms (or no symptoms) has not actually completed a 14-day span from the time of infection when this quarantine is up? All 858 of these passengers are California residents, and President Trump himself
UCSF epidemiology professor George Rutherford makes this point to the Chronicle, saying, "You don’t want to have 800 or so people re-seeding their communities when they are released."
Of course there's some legal gray area around forcing people to be tested — because this isn't China or South Korea, where that occurred. One Stanford law professor suggests that public health authorities can enforce testing by threatening fines or jail time for refusal, if it's in the public's interest.
Most of these untested passengers will be released from their quarantine next Tuesday or Wednesday, after checking in to Travis on March 10 or 11.
As the New York Times reports, six passengers in quarantines at Travis and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego have tested positive for COVID-19, and "at least nine" are currently hospitalized with symptoms of the coronavirus.
With a reported 290 tests administered, is it possible that some test results simply aren't back yet?
The Times also has reports of cruise passengers who requested tests but were denied them, and reports that many of those in quarantine have not had their temperatures taken since they arrived at the military bases. Furthering concerns about the cruise ship continuing to be a vector for the spread of the virus is the fact that proper hygiene and social distancing is not being enforced at the bases or at a quarantine facility in Georgia — and Florida residents from the cruise ship were all allowed to self-quarantine at home.