Have you walked through an airport lately? Many of those tired travelers you see rolling their suitcases from one flight to the next may look a little different. Many of those travelers are wearing masks. They are a response to the coronavirus outbreak. It began at the end of December in China and is now in 27 countries as of February 3, 2020. Twelve cases, as of Tuesday, have been reported in the United States in Washington, California, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts and now Wisconsin. The Center for Disease Control is taking aggressive measures to slow down the spread of the virus in the US.
On January 31, 2020, Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health & Human Services, issued a public health emergency. In response, foreign national travelers who were in China within the past 14 days, will not be allowed entry into the United States. US citizens returning from China are to be closely monitored and face possible quarantine for 14-days.
US citizens flying back from China and travelers who were in China during the previous 2-week period will find their flights diverted to one of 11 US airports designated as gateway destinations. The gateway destinations provide enhanced health screening. Two airports in the Northwest + Pacific region are Daniel K. Inouye Airport in Honolulu, HI, and Seattle–Tacoma, Washington. Each of the gateway locations can provide lodging for quarantine travelers. The state of Hawaii is looking to quarantine travelers at Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station as it provides security, limited public access, and support staff.
The goal of limiting travel from the affected area is to slow down the spread of the virus. US Department of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli, said: “the steps that we’re taking in the US are to dramatically slow its spread and to use that time to learn more about this new virus that has literally existed on earth for less than two months.”
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands, avoid contact with sick people, and stay home when sick. The CDC also recommends avoiding nonessential travel to China. If you are scheduled for a trip to China, contact your airline provider about rescheduling. The impact felt by travelers and the economy will continue to grow with the spread of the virus and will play out over the next few weeks or months. Don’t expect to see the masks of the airline traveler come off soon.