WASHINGTON – The U.S. government is increasing staff to conduct screenings at 20 airports that handle almost all passengers traveling into the country from China, where a novel coronavirus continues to spread, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Details of the expanded surveillance are still being formulated. The CDC already has quarantine facilities in place at 20 ports of entry, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Anchorage, Honolulu, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami and Houston.
George W. Bush Intercontinental Airport announced the airport will take preventative measures to ensure the community is protected after the CDC announced the expansion. IAH is still waiting for further guidance on when it will start screening passengers.
Houston Airports will continue to work closely with the CDC as logistics are still being finalized. Houston Airports is waiting for further guidance on when screenings will begin and stands ready with our partners to ensure our community is protected. (2/3)— Houston Bush Airport (@iah) January 28, 2020
Travelers flying through Bush Intercontinental Airport said they welcome the move. Several were spotted wearing face masks as a precaution.
"I’m a senior, said Oscar Reyes, who was heading to the Philippines via Tokyo. " I’m prone to develop, acquire this virus very easily so it’s a concern because I don’t have that much reserve."
Vice President Mike Pence alluded to the expanded screening in public remarks Monday afternoon. He said the 20 airports involved are “the airports that receive 90 percent of all passengers from China. Any passengers who are ill will receive additional screening.”
“Here in our country, we’re taking strong steps to see to the health and the wellbeing of the American people,” Pence said. “But as President Trump made clear today, the United States of America stands ready to assist the people of China and around the world as they deal with this virus.”
China on Tuesday reported 25 more deaths from a new viral disease, raising the total to at least 106, as the U.S. government prepared to fly Americans out of the city at the center of the outbreak.
The total includes the first death in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and 24 more fatalities in Hubei province, where the first coronavirus illnesses occurred in December.
The U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where authorities cut off most access Jan. 22 in an effort to contain the disease, was preparing to fly its diplomats and some other Americans out of the city. Japan, France, Mongolia and other governments also were preparing evacuations.
China's increasingly drastic containment efforts began with the suspension of plane, train and bus links to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in central China. That lockdown has expanded to 17 cities with more than 50 million people in the most far-reaching disease-control measures ever imposed.
There were 1,771 new cases confirmed on Monday, raising the national total to 4,515, according to the National Health Commission. It said 976 were in serious condition.
Wuhan is building two hospitals, one with 1,500 beds and another with 1,000, for the growing number of patients. The first is scheduled to be finished next week.
The virus is thought to have spread to people from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan. On Sunday, authorities banned trade in wild animals and urged people to stop eating meat from them.