Gov. Jay Inslee has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to broaden its scrutiny of passengers arriving from China at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The governor spoke with CDC officials Monday and sent a letter Wednesday requesting that passengers arriving from any region in China where person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus has occurred have their temperatures taken and that they provide information about their recent health history. These steps would be in addition to efforts already underway at select airports across the nation.
“I believe Washingtonians have a reasonable expectation that these screenings would include a temperature and a review of the health history of the individual before they enter the state,” Inslee said at a news conference Wednesday. “To date, the CDC has not seen fit to do that.”
The virus, which is also referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus, has sickened more than 7,700 people and killed 170. Most cases and all the deaths have been in China. The virus was first identified in Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China.
Five cases have been reported in the United States. A Snohomish County man was the nation’s first confirmed case. He had traveled to Wuhan in November and flew back Jan. 15, two days before screenings began. The man is in satisfactory condition and in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett.
Public-health officials have identified 67 people who were in close contact with the Snohomish County man. Those people are being contacted daily by health-care workers to find out if they are experiencing any symptoms, such as fever or respiratory issues.
Three University of Washington students who had been in Wuhan were tested for the virus. Two have tested negative for the virus and the third student, who has been isolated, is awaiting word on the test.
On Tuesday the CDC added Sea-Tac along with 12 other airports and border crossings in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, as ports of call designated to screen travelers from China. These checkpoints are all in places with CDC quarantine stations.
The screening sites announced this week come in addition to the five U.S. airports already equipped to screen passengers and where direct flights from Wuhan were being funneled before Chinese officials halted travel out of that area: New York’s Kennedy Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare, and the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta international airports. Passengers from in and around Wuhan arriving at those airports will be checked for fever and other signs of illness.
The screening plan requires officers from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to give information from the CDC to passengers from China explaining what to do if they start showing symptoms in line with the Wuhan coronavirus within 14 days of arriving in the United States. Any travelers showing signs of illness related to the virus and who have been in China will be moved along to CDC staff at the airport.
The best protection against the Wuhan coronavirus is what works best fending off the flu, public health officials say; wash your hands with soap in hot water, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home from school or work if you are sick.
So far, the virus has been more serious in people older than 60 or people with underlying health issues.