U.S. says China travel ban under consideration to combat coronavirus

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Hong Kong police wearing medical masks while patrolling outside the West Kowloon rail station.
Hong Kong police wearing medical masks while patrolling outside the West Kowloon rail station. Photo Credit: Yung Chi Wai Derek/Shutterstock

All options, including a ban on travel from China to the U.S., must be considered to prevent a spread of the novel coronavirus, Health and Human Service secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday. 

“It is important not to take anything off the table,” Azar told reporters during a briefing in Washington, D.C. He added that federal officials will be constantly assessing the situation as they learn more about the epidemiology of the virus. But he also emphasized that the virus currently does not pose a risk to the vast majority of Americans.

Thus far there have been more than 4,500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in China and more than 100 deaths. Only five cases have been confirmed in the U.S., and each of those individuals had traveled from Wuhan, where the virus originated. 

As a further preventative measure, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will begin screening arriving passengers from China at 15 more airports, which will join screening operations already in place at Chicago O’Hare, New York JFK, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Though the agency didn’t provide the full list of airports, the operations will take place at airports that already have regular quarantine stations, said National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease director Nancy Messonnier. The CDC runs such stations at 20 airports and border crossings from Alaska to San Juan. 

In a speech Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said the expanded screening stations will cover 90% of flyers arriving to the U.S. from China. 

The CDC on Monday updated travel guidance for China, recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to the entire country.

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