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Feds backtrack on transfer of quarantined coronavirus patients to Alabama

IVAN PEREIRA

Plans to move American coronavirus patients to an Alabama facility were canceled Sunday after local officials and residents expressed concerns.

Hours after Anniston County's City Council voted Sunday to pursue legal action against the federal government over its proposal to transfer patients from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to the town's FEMA facility for quarantine, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Twitter that plans had changed.

Ivey said President Donald Trump called her and assured her that the patients who were aboard the Diamond Princess wouldn't be transferred to Alabama.

MORE: 2 cruise ship passengers in Japan die from novel coronavirus

"I thanked him for his support of AL! We always want to help our fellow Americans, but this wasn't fully vetted," Ivey tweeted.

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Health didn't immediately return messages asking for comment Sunday.

Although the federal government assured the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency that the coronavirus patients would be isolated in the Anniston FEMA facility and that they would pose no threat to residents, local officials said they were concerned and upset they weren't given more notice.

PHOTO: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey visits for homecoming festivities during the first half of an NCAA college football game between Alabama and Arkansas, in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Oct. 26, 2019. (Vasha Hunt/AP, FILE)

The Anniston City Council approved a resolution during an emergency meeting Sunday morning asking the city attorney to explore blocking any patient transfer with an injunction.

"What's primary is the health of this community," Councilmember Millie Harris said at the meeting. "This is not easy. We have to weigh everything."

Later in the day, the Calhoun County Commission also approved a resolution to pursue legal action against the federal government.

The Diamond Princess docked at the Japanese port of Yokohama on Feb. 3 and was placed under quarantine after passengers and crew showed coronavirus symptoms.

As of Sunday, there were 634 confirmed coronavirus cases aboard Diamond Princess, with two deaths. The U.S. government evacuated 300 American passengers to the U.S. last week, 14 of whom tested positive for the virus.

PHOTO: The FEMA facility in Anniston, Ala. (Google Maps Street View)

The Anniston facility was only being considered as a "back up" location in case patients couldn't be transported to other quarantine locations, according to Ivey.

MORE: Judge temporarily halts transfer of coronavirus patients to quarantine facility in California city

During the Anniston City Council meeting, some councilmembers had mixed feelings about the situation.

Councilmember Jay Jenkins acknowledged that the town should receive more information from the federal government about the transfer, but reiterated that the patients are helpless Americans who need immediate care.

"Put yourself in those people's shoes," he said.

Some residents blasted the councilmembers for not going far enough to block the patient transfer. Yvonne Gomez said she was angry the federal government didn't consult the community or provide more information on how the transfer would work.

"We've got families … We have children too. We don't want to lose our children," she said.

Anniston wasn't the only American town fighting against plans to house quarantined patients. On Friday, Judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order against the federal government to block it from sending coronavirus patients to a quarantine site in Costa Mesa, California.

Officials from the Southern California city said they were not properly informed about the federal government's plans.

Feds backtrack on transfer of quarantined coronavirus patients to Alabama originally appeared on abcnews.go.com