Camp Ashland gate (copy)

A view of the gates of Camp Ashland. The site provided temporary lodging for 57 quarantined people in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In the wake of the coronavirus threat, the Chinese government’s lockdown of Wuhan province left countless foreign nationals, including many Americans, stranded there. The U.S. and other nations have scrambled to clear steep Chinese procedural complications so these marooned adults and children could board planes to get back to their home countries. It’s been a difficult, frustrating endeavor.

Once these Americans managed to leave China and make the arduous return across the Pacific, the question has become: How to quarantine them, to prevent the possible spread of the disease? These people may not have the virus at all, but they need to be placed in isolation for a period to protect public health.

It makes sense for returning Americans to be placed in facilities best equipped to handle the situation. The University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine have developed world-class protective procedures to deal with highly infectious diseases, and it’s understandable that some of these travelers would be placed here, with Nebraska Medicine providing support if needed. The other two quarantine sites are in California and Texas. Trained teams of federal staff carry out the quarantines.

On Friday, 57 Americans from Wuhan, including 10 children, arrived on a flight to Omaha and were taken by charter buses to the Nebraska National Guard’s Camp Ashland. They will stay there for 14 days in the first federal quarantine in five decades.

If a traveler develops mild symptoms, they will probably would go to the new 20-bed National Quarantine Unit on the med center campus, the nation’s only federal quarantine center. An adult or child who required hospitalization probably would be housed in the 10-bed Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, also at the med center. An ambulance company that provides infectious disease transport for the state will be based at the camp 24/7 to transfer patients if necessary.

The men, women and children at Camp Ashland are Americans who have undergone tremendous hardship through this ordeal and deserve the best precautionary care, for their sake and the nation’s. Federal and Nebraska staff are properly trained and equipped to address the need.

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