As Americans return home from abroad, some undergo health screening

Health screening. Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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Health screening. Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Some international travelers arriving in the United States from Mexico, the Caribbean, Latin America or other areas with coronavirus cases have been surprised they did not undergo health screening upon arrival.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting enhanced health screening of those who have been in Europe, China and Iran in the past 14 days, due to widespread, ongoing transmission. But that enhanced screening does not cover travelers from all areas of the world.

Passengers on planes from Europe are being screened by the CDC after they get off the plane, in the jetway or secure corridors, before they walk to U.S. Customs and Border Protection checkpoints.

Atlanta officials say that has helped to prevent Hartsfield-Jackson from having the huge crowds and backups seen last weekend at other airports, such as Chicago O’Hare, as Americans rushed to return home from Europe after new travel restrictions were announced.

Another surge is expected soon, given a Thursday State Department advisory that Americans abroad should come home now or be prepared to stay where they are for an indefinite period.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to work closely with our federal and industry partners in Atlanta, as well as at the 12 other U.S. airports receiving travelers across the nation from countries with restricted travel to ensure all individuals are screened according to CDC guidelines,” said a CBP spokesperson in a written statement.

For flights coming from countries subject to the enhanced screening, passengers on the plane are asked to fill out a traveler health declaration form, according to a script for airline cabin crews. The passengers hand the forms to authorities after they get off the plane. They could go through additional health screening.

They are also handed a card or flyer with details on how to check their temperature and health status for the next 14 days.

The CDC has required screening of travelers in Korea and Italy before they board planes to the United States.

Americans who have been in Europe, China, Iran, Malaysia or South Korea are also subject to self-quarantine, meaning they are asked to stay home for 14 days and monitor their health.

There are no flights from Iran to Atlanta, and flights from China were suspended more than a month ago.