Although Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is one of 11 designated to screen and quarantine passengers arriving to the U.S. from China amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that originated there, the details of how that will work are murky. 

The order for flights from China to be routed through a handful of U.S. airports equipped for health screenings came Friday from President Donald Trump. The presidential proclamation doesn’t include flights from Hong Kong or Macao, which are semi-autonomous Chinese territories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had already advised Americans not to travel to China.

It isn’t clear when Sea-Tac will begin the screening that was announced Friday for air travelers coming from China. An earlier screening effort lead by the CDC already had passengers whose trips originated in China being screened at Sea-Tac last week. 

No flights from mainland China are currently arriving at Sea-Tac. Delta Air Lines and Hainan Airlines are the only two carriers with direct flights between Seattle and mainland China, and both have canceled all such flights, said Sea-Tac spokesman Perry Cooper. Cathay Pacific’s flights to and from Hong Kong are still operating, Cooper said.

Firm dates haven’t been set for flights with other destinations to begin being rerouted to Sea-Tac, but flights will “be routed there, though, as the process evolves,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauly wrote in an email.

When flights from China arrive at one of the 11 screening airports, all passengers will be screened for fever, cough or difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. What happens from there will depend on whether a passenger has been to Wuhan or elsewhere in Hubei province during the previous 14 days.

For passengers who have recently been to Hubei province:

  • Anyone showing symptoms will receive another medical evaluation and will be quarantined for 14 days at one of four military bases: Fort Carson in Colorado, Travis Air Force Base near San Francisco, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas or Marine Corps Air Station Miramar near San Diego.
  • Those who don’t show symptoms will be quarantined somewhere in the area of the airport they were screened. Washington state public health officials didn’t respond directly to questions about where near Sea-Tac people could be isolated, only that they are still working out the details. “DOH is working closely with partners, including federal and state agencies, local health departments and the Port of Seattle, to implement the mandatory quarantine measures outlined in a presidential proclamation on 2019 novel coronavirus,” state Department of Health spokesperson Kristen Maki said Monday.

For passengers who haven’t recently been to Hubei province:

  • Anyone showing symptoms will receive further tests and won’t be allowed to go to their final destination until they are cleared for travel.
  • Those who don’t show symptoms will be asked to stay home as much as possible and to monitor their health for 14 days.

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