Ontario International Airport (ONT) said it is preparing for the possibility of the flight carrying U.S. government officials and private citizens who have been in the Chinese city to arrive this week.
In a statement, the airport said it is “working closely with our federal, state, county, and city partners to plan for the possibility of a flight carrying U.S. government officials and private citizens returning this week from Wuhan, China.”
“Ontario International is an official repatriation center for the West Coast and has conducted extensive training in managing situations such as this. In the event that the returning passengers do arrive at ONT, preparations are being made to ensure that proper health, safety, and security procedures are followed.”
“In coordination with our state partners, we are aware that the Medical and Health Coordination Center (MHCC) at the state Department of Public Health in Sacramento has been activated. The MHCC is coordinating with all state health agencies and emergency services.”
The statement added that the airport will continue to operate as normal and that the “safety and security of our facilities are of utmost importance.”
“We are taking whatever steps are necessary to minimize the risk to our customers, our staff, and the community at large,” it said.
There will be around 240 passengers on the flight which will first arrive in Alaska, where they will be screened by officials before proceeding with their journey, and possibly landing at ONT. Anyone who shows symptoms of the virus, including a fever and respiratory issues, won’t be allowed onto the plane.
Fox News reported that those onboard consist of U.S. State Department employees, U.S. contractors who have been working in China, and other U.S. citizens as well as nine children.
So far, five people in the United States have been diagnosed with coronavirus, including one in Washington, one in Illinois, one in Arizona, and two in California.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in news reports Monday that approximately 110 people in the United States have been tested for the virus.
An alert issued on Jan. 27 by the U.S. Department of State urged Americans to consider not traveling to China amid the outbreak of the potentially deadly coronavirus.
“A Novel (new) Coronavirus is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness that began in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. This outbreak began in early December 2019 and continues to grow. Chinese health officials have reported thousands of cases throughout China,” the bulletin said.
The CDC also issued a Level 3 Warning: Avoid all nonessential travel to China. Chinese authorities are imposing quarantines and restricting travel throughout the country.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be nearly as deadly.
One public health official said as many as 100,000 people may have been infected with the coronavirus as it spreads around the globe, reaching as far as France and Germany.
The virus, which has no vaccine and no known cure has killed 56 people in China, the majority of which were older patients.