By Jody Stewart
The decision by FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to bring coronavirus-afflicted passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston this past weekend caught many Alabama officials by surprise.
Anniston Mayor Jack Draper and Calhoun County Commissioner Tim Hodges held a press conference Saturday afternoon, and said they just learned of the decision to bring coronavirus-afflicted passengers to Anniston around noon thru an email from the Dept of Health and Human Services.
While it was reported that the passengers of the cruise ship were suffering from mild symptoms of the virus or mild flu symptoms, if serious symptoms of the virus appear, they would be moved to pre-determined hospitals.
State officials including Congressman Rogers, Senator Shelby, Senator Jones and Gov. Ivey all shared their concerns with the two federal departments who chose the Anniston location to send passengers to for treatment.
Mike Rogers said, “I called President Trump who was on Air Force One on his way to India and told him that the local community was not prepared to handle such an event. The local hospitals were not prepared and that the facility here in Anniston while it is a state of the art training center, it is not equipped to be a treatment center.”
Rogers, “He agreed with me that the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services to house those Americans exposed to Coronavirus at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston is the wrong decision,” he went on to say “President Trump had no advance notice and these individuals were brought to the continental United States without his consent,” adding “I’ll continue to work with President Trump and Health & Human Services to find the best facilities that will meet the needs for the Americans who have been exposed to this dangerous virus, however the CDP is not that place.”
According to the Anniston City Council in a press conference on Monday it was determined that there was a misconception about the training and condition of the FEMA Center in Anniston and the decision was made it was not a suitable location for the patients to be transported to.
On Sunday morning, Governor Kay Ivey issued the following statement about the FEMA Center in Anniston, Alabama.
“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.
“Obviously concerned, there were a number of conversations between HHS, the White House, my staff and me, as well as two rounds of conference calls including the senior staff of the Congressional Delegation to try to clarify HHS’ intent and reasoning for selecting Alabama. On one of the calls, they informed us that the CDP in Anniston is only being considered as a “back-up” plan, in case they run out of alternative locations. They assured us on both calls that no decision had been made to send anyone to Anniston.”
The Anniston City council also stated that these passengers were fellow Americans with families and deserve to be cared for, but Mayor Draper said “We simply do not have proper facilities and are not prepared to house or treat people.” The Anniston City council also stated that these passengers were fellow Americans with families and deserve the best of care.