The coronavirus that has sickened thousands worldwide has been declared a public health emergency in the United States, with the Trump administration acting to deny entry to foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the virus and restricting flights from China, officials announced Friday.
Boston — with three flights from China a day — is not on the list of seven cities approved to receive direct flights, and Massport officials said they are still trying to determine the implications of the government’s order.
“It is likely that we will continue to see more cases in the United States in the coming days and weeks, including some limited person-to-person transmissions,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “The American public can be assured the full weight of the U.S. government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people.”
President Trump signed an order that will temporarily bar entry to the U.S. of foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the last 14 days.
Americans returning from China will be allowed into the country, but will face screening at select ports of entry and be required to undergo two weeks of self-screening to make sure they don’t pose a health risk.
Those returning from Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.
The new restrictions will take effect at 5 p.m. Sunday, when the U.S. will also begin funneling all flights to the U.S. from China to seven major airports where passengers can be screened for the illness.
The seven airports that will receive all direct flights from China are in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta, according to reports.
Boston is on the CDC list of 20 ports of entry that were ordered to have advanced coronavirus screening for any passengers whose trips began in China.
CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes told the Herald the screenings have not yet begun as “logistics are still underway.” He said “Logan will be impacted” by the new Trump administration orders, but would not share additional details.
A press release from DPH and Massport also said the new orders from Health and Human Services could change plans for Logan.
Logan currently receives up to three flights a day from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. A Massport spokeswoman said, “We are awaiting guidance from the federal government on next steps and what it means for our three nonstop flights.”
A CBP spokesman said the agency is working with the CDC to identify travelers with a connection to Wuhan and the CDC makes the call on if those passengers need further health screening.
Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said in a statement, “We understand that this new virus is causing public concern, but I want to reassure people that at this time, the risk to Massachusetts residents remains low.”
American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines all announced they were suspending flights to China.
There are nearly 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, and at least 213 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
The virus has emerged in 20 countries and there are now six cases in the United States, one of which was passed through human-to-human transmission for the first time.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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