The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that flights could be re-routed for coronavirus screening if it’s discovered mid-flight that a passenger has been to China recently.
That could affect travelers who have not been to China, if someone on their flight has been in China in the last 14 days, according to the agency.
Homeland Security also warned that travelers who show symptoms “should be prepared for the possibility of prolonged delay to avoid spreading the infection.”
“We realize this could provide added stress and prolong travel times for some individuals, however public health and security experts agree these measures are necessary to contain the virus and protect the American people,” Department of Homeland Security acting secretary Chad Wolf said in a written statement.
Airlines and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will work to identify passengers who have been to China before they fly to the United States.
Americans flying to the United States from China will be re-routed to certain airports “at no cost to the traveler,” according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Airlines are identifying some travelers that have been to China recently based on information they have on their past itineraries, and have also begun asking travelers during the pre-departure Q&A process at the airport if they have been to China in the last 14 days.
Airlines are recommending that travelers flying internationally allow extra time at the airport for check-in.
Officials are adding four more airports to the list designated to receive flights with U.S. citizens who have been in China in the last 14 days, in addition to Atlanta, New York JFK, Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, Honolulu and Los Angeles.
Dallas, Detroit, Newark and Washington Dulles will now also receive flights with passengers from China.
Delta Air Lines has suspended flights to China, and other U.S. airlines are making similar moves. Chinese airlines also have routes between the U.S. and China.
The Trump Administration announced a public health emergency last Friday and announced new measures that took effect Sunday afternoon.
U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province in the last 14 days will be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine.
Others who have traveled elsewhere in mainland China in the last two weeks will be screened and undergo up to 14 days of “monitored self-quarantine,” according to federal officials.
President Donald Trump also signed an order to temporarily bar entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the disease. It will apply to foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the last 14 days, unless they are immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Delta said passengers traveling to the U.S. from any country -- not just China -- are subject to the travel restrictions.
Those who have been in China within the past two weeks and are flying internationally should check with the government of the country they plan to visit and the International Air Transport Association to determine if they will be allowed entry, according to Delta.
Hartsfield-Jackson issued a statement Saturday saying some passengers who may have connected through the affected region could be diverted to Atlanta.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a briefing Monday that given that Wuhan was closed off Jan. 21 and other cities in Hubei province were subsequently closed off, “the number of travelers coming out of either of those locations should be trailing off.”
She also said that given that quarantine would take effect within 14 days of leaving Hubei, “we are rapidly getting to the end of that cycle, and therefore, we expect the number of individuals to fit within that quarantine requirement to be decreasing.”
The airport said some employees throughout Hartsfield-Jackson may choose to wear protective masks, but it is not mandatory.
The CDC plans to conduct health screenings to detect travelers entering the United States with fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Hartsfield-Jackson has quarantine facilities in the international terminal, on Concourse F, and the Department of Defense said it stands ready to provide housing.
The Defense Department said military facilities in Fort Carson, Colorado; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California could be used to accommodate 1,000 people who may have to be quarantined, the Associated Press reported.
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