BREAKING: White House Abruptly Ends COVID-19 Airport Screenings for International Travelers as World Braces for Second Wave
The White House on Wednesday announced that it will cease screening air travelers entering the United States from select countries beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday, September 14, according to exclusive reporting by Yahoo News.
“The screening operations have been held at select airports since January, when the first cases of the disease began to emerge from Wuhan, China. Since March, incoming international flights from select high-risk countries, including much of Europe, China and Iran, among other regions, have been funneled through 15 designated airports in the United States,” Yahoo learned.
“As of Monday, however, international flights will no longer be funneled into select airports for screening purposes and all screenings will come to a halt, according to communications and sources,” Yahoo added. “All screenings and rerouting of select international flights will cease at exactly 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 14.”
The surprising move comes as cases in the United States are uncontrollably surging in most of the country, with 6.4 million cases and 190,000 deaths as of today.
One notable exception to these grim statistics is New York, the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The spread of cases has remained below one percent for 33 straight days, because New Yorkers have, for the most part, adhered to wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, and taken advantage of widespread testing, which is offered for free. COVID-19 has taken the lives of 32,000 New Yorkers, 24,000 of whom were residents of New York City.
Since the screenings began, there has been a coordinated effort between The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure the safety of travelers. AMR, a Dallas contractor, has been in charge of conducting most of the screenings, Yahoo noted.
The Trump Administration, however, has not mandated screenings for domestic air travelers, and President Donald Trump has admitted that he intentionally downplayed the severity of the crisis in order to prevent a panic.
Many states, however, have imposed strict quarantine measures on people visiting from states with high case rates.
New York, for instance, requires a two-week quarantine on tourists from 34 states and Guam.
“As we continue to pursue a phased, data driven reopening, the number of areas that remain on New York’s travel advisory is a stark reminder of the continued extent of the COVID-19 crisis throughout the nation,” Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said last week. “Our ability to protect our state and fight the virus begins with what we do here at home, and that’s why it’s so important that New Yorkers wear masks, socially distance and wash their hands, and why local governments need to enforce state guidance. Everyone stay safe and be New York Tough, and we will get through this together.”
Additional reporting from CNN cited an unnamed TSA agent who explained that “a draft public affairs guidance memo lays out the rationale for ending airport screening: Of the 675,000 passengers screened at 15 airports, fewer than 15 had been identified as having Covid-19.”
CNN also learned that Airlines for America, a lobbying group for the struggling American commercial aviation industry, may be involved in the changes.
“We continue to support spending scarce screening resources where they can best be utilized and no longer believe that it makes sense to continue screening at these 15 airports given the extremely low number of passengers identified by the (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as potentially having a health issue,” the organization said in a statement.
But cases in Europe – specifically Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom – are also trending toward a second wave, People Magazine noted on Tuesday.
Health experts have long warned that hasty reopenings of economies and schools, a lack of a national mask-wearing mandate, as well as easing travel restrictions, will lead to another outbreak, and it will coincide with flu season. One recent model projects more than 400,000 American deaths by the end of 2020 from COVID-19 alone.
One question, therefore, unavoidably arises: what happens to travelers if and when they are scheduled to leave the United States?