WASHINGTON—Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it has referred more than 63,000 travelers for enhanced health screenings from Feb. 2 to March 4 amid the coronavirus spread.
The travelers—mostly citizens of the United States, China, Canada, Vietnam, and India—were referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for further screening, according to CBP.
The majority were air passengers, with an additional 766 land travelers and 113 sea travelers also screened.
“If CBP observes individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, we will continue to work with the CDC to determine if a traveler is a possible public health risk by referring them to CDC for enhanced health screening,” a CBP spokesperson said in an email.
“In addition, CBP will continue to refer for enhanced health screening any traveler who has been anywhere in mainland China or Iran within 14 days of the traveler’s attempted entry to the United States.”
CBP processes more than 1 million travelers at ports of entry each day.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” CBP acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said on March 5. “So whether it’s Ebola, SARS—we’ve even had challenges with tuberculosis—infectious diseases is something really that CBP deals with on an ongoing basis.’
Morgan said his agency is working with CDC and other officials every day to monitor the situation and his agency is prepared for any scenario. He said he will close the southern border if CDC and medical experts deem it necessary.
So far, non-U.S. citizens traveling from China or Iran are ineligible to enter the United States, according to CDC guidelines.
“American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and their families who have been in China or Iran in the past 14 days will be allowed to enter the United States, but will be redirected to one of 11 airports to undergo health screening,” the CDC states on its website. “Depending on their health and travel history, they will have some level of restrictions on their movements for 14 days from the time they left China or Iran.”
The State Department also has issued travel advisories for Italy and South Korea, suggesting travelers reconsider traveling to those countries.
As of March 6, the CDC confirmed that 11 people have died from coronavirus in the United States, with a further 164 cases in 19 states.
The CDC recommends that people avoid close contact with others who are sick, stay at home if ill, and practice good hygiene.
On March 6, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill to deal with the coronavirus response.
“So we’re signing the $8.3 billion. I asked for $2.5 [million] and I got 8.3 [million], and I’ll take it,” Trump said at the signing.