At Least 140 Travelers Denied Entry to US Over Coronavirus Threat

By Wire Service
Wire Service
Wire Service
February 19, 2020Updated: February 19, 2020

The Trump administration has prevented at least 140 travelers from entering the United States as it attempts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States.

Fourteen foreign nationals were turned away at U.S. airports and 126 people were refused entry at land ports from Feb. 2 to Feb. 12, according to data provided to CNN by the Department of Homeland Security.

Airlines are responsible for removing passengers who are denied entry to the United States out of the country. Additionally, 34 travelers were stopped at preclearance locations—airports where U.S. officials conduct screening before passengers board U.S.-bound flights.

On Feb. 2, the United States began implementing stringent travel restrictions that include temporarily denying entry to foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days before they arrived in the United States. American citizens returning from China are also subject to health screenings and potential quarantine. Those U.S. citizens and others traveling to the United States from China are being funneled through 11 airports where authorities can conduct additional screening and transfer people for quarantine if needed.

“The vast majority of folks that we are processing are U.S. citizens coming back from China,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told CNN earlier this month. “We continue to screen those at those 11 airports, continue to refer those to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) who are then making further medical determinations about quarantine procedures.”

Customs officers referred 43,263 air travelers for potential secondary screening since the efforts began on Feb. 2. Of those referred at airports, 23,836 required secondary screening, according to the data.

Last summer, as the Ebola virus threat was emerging from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the DHS’s Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office implemented plans to provide enhanced airport screening at multiple airports throughout the United States. The department’s chief medical officer is housed within the CWMD office.

The department retrofitted its Ebola response plan to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, according to the DHS. The contracts put in place last summer for medical teams as part of the Ebola preparations were still in place, and therefore used to respond to coronavirus.

Additional personnel have been added to deal with the virus as well. Around 95 CWMD contractors are employed per day across the 11 airports to conduct medical screenings. As of Feb. 12, 19 DHS personnel, primarily from FEMA, have been embedded with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services operations center.

There are also 150-200 Customs and Border Protection officers assisting with screening daily at the 11 airports.

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