U.S. Temporarily Bars Foreigners Who Have Recently Visited China from Entering U.S. to Prevent Coronavirus Outbreak

Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is accompanied by health officials as they speak to reporters about Trump administration efforts regarding the coronavirus outbreak in China during a news briefing at the White House, January 31, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

The White House coronavirus task force announced Friday that it was enacting a public health emergency in the wake of the virus’s outbreak, which so far has resulted in seven confirmed cases in the U.S.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar explained in a press conference that, starting Sunday at 5 p.m., the administration is “temporarily suspending the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus.”

As of Friday afternoon, there have been at least 213 confirmed deaths and over 9,709 cases in China, with over 140 cases confirmed outside of China. The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and is related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a virus that also originated in China and killed hundreds of people in 2002 and 2003.

Azar said Friday that while “the risk is low” for Americans domestically, any U.S. citizen who had been to Hubei province over the last two weeks was subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon returning to the U.S.

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Acting Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli added that all flights from China would be funneled to seven American airports: JFK in New York City, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

Earlier Friday, Delta and American Airlines announced that they would suspend all flights between the U.S. and China.

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on Thursday, while Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) warned that the Chinese were not admitting the seriousness of the outbreak.

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