Global coronavirus infections exceeded 17,000 Sunday, as the Trump administration imposed drastic measures to contain the virus in the U.S. by ordering levels of quarantine for American citizens returning from China and denying entry to the U.S. among foreign nationals who recently have been to the Asian country.
Americans who have been in Hubei province — the center of the viral outbreak — within the last 14 days will be quarantined two weeks in the U.S., under rules that took effect shortly before the kickoff of Super Bowl LIV.
The Pentagon approved a list of military sites requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will oversee the mandatory stays.
Americans returning from the rest of mainland China will be subject to health screenings and then monitored under self-quarantine at home for 14 days, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II said Friday in previewing the rules at the White House.
Foreign nationals who have been in China with the last 14 days will be turned away, except for relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents trying to return to the states.
Also, all flights from China will be funneled through John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, San Francisco International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu and Los Angeles International Airport.
Officials stressed that the measures will be temporary, as they grapple with the “unknowns” of the disease.
So far, the coronavirus has killed at least 361 people amid 17,200 cases in China. There have been 146 cases reported in 23 other countries, according to the World Health Organization.
The coronavirus can cause severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress and organ failure. It was discovered in December and traced back to a market that sold live animals in Wuhan, a city of 11 million located about halfway between Beijing and Hong Kong.
President Trump says he’s confident the situation is under control. U.S. authorities have reported seven cases, including one case of human-to-human transmission in Chicago. The latest case, reported over the weekend, involves a person in Massachusetts who recently had traveled to Wuhan.
“This is a serious health situation in China, but I want to emphasize the risk to the American public currently is low,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Our goal is to do all we can do to keep it that way.”
WHO recently declared the virus a global health emergency, opening the door to worldwide collaboration and funding to combat the disease.
The State Department warned Americans not to travel to China, though some Republicans in Congress want the U.S. to impose a travel ban on flights to and from the Asian nation.
An average of more than 14,000 people traveled from China to the U.S. on any given day in fiscal 2019 via direct or indirect flights, according to Mr. Trump’s proclamation banning entry to certain foreigners.
“The United States government is unable to effectively evaluate and monitor all of the travelers continuing to arrive from China,” the proclamation says. “The potential for widespread transmission of the virus by infected individuals seeking to enter the United States threatens the security of our transportation system and infrastructure and the national security.”
Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines are suspending all flights from the U.S. to the Chinese mainland, resulting in a dramatic drop in travel, according to officials. It’s unclear whether Chinese airlines, which comprise nearly two-thirds of the travel between the nations, will follow suit.
“There is no travel ban,” said acting Assistant Transportation Undersecretary Joel Szabat.
Federal officials said 195 Americans repatriated Wednesday from Wuhan will be under quarantine for two weeks at a military base in California.
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