mrtom-uk/iStock(NEW YORK) — The U.S. government is chartering a flight out of Wuhan, China — the city at the center of the novel coronavirus outbreak — for U.S. personnel, their families and some U.S. citizens on Wednesday.
The evacuation flight for staff at the consulate general in the city of 11 million will end up in Ontario, California, according to a State Department spokesperson.
All travelers aboard the plane will be screened for symptoms at the airport prior to departure and subject to additional screening, observation and monitoring requirements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. The charter flight is expected to arrive early Wednesday morning at Ontario International from Wuhan, after refueling in Anchorage, Alaska, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the matter.
The CDC is planning to keep everyone on the flight in quarantine in California for at least three days. Those who show illness and need to be tested could be held for as many as 14 days. Passengers will be monitored along the way and if anyone gets sick in the air they may be separated in Alaska and flown onward independently, the U.S. official said.
While about 3,000 people have been sickened in China, the CDC said Monday that the disease is “not spreading” in the U.S. There have been five confirmed cases so far — all of whom traveled to Wuhan — out of 110 individuals being investigated in 26 states.
The consulate general is evacuating the majority of its staff and urging U.S. citizens not to travel to Hubei province, all but closing its doors amid the outbreak that has rattled nerves around the world.
Seats on the charter flight are also open to American citizens, with an alert sent Sunday notifying those in China and registered with the U.S. mission. American citizens are required to pay for their seat, and capacity is limited, with priority given to those most at risk of infection, per the spokesperson.
The initial notice that went out Sunday said the flight would travel to San Francisco, but Mayor London Breed and Ivar Satero, director of San Francisco International Airport, said Monday that that was no longer true.
The flight will first land in Anchorage, Alaska, before continuing to Ontario International Airport, just east of Los Angeles, according to Satero. He did not provide exact details on departure or arrival, and the State Department spokesperson said only that the flight would leave Wednesday morning local time in Wuhan.
“Ontario International Airport (ONT) is working closely with our federal, state, county and city partners to plan for the possibility of a flight carrying U.S. government officials and private citizens returning this week from Wuhan, China,” Ontario International Airport said in a statement. “Ontario International is an official repatriation center for the West Coast and has conducted extensive training in managing situations such as this. In the event that the returning passengers do arrive at ONT, preparations are being made to ensure that proper health, safety and security procedures are followed.”
The State Department raised its travel advisory for China on Monday, urging American citizens to “reconsider travel” to the whole country. There has been a “do not travel” warning in place since Thursday for Hubei province when the consulate general announced it was pulling out all nonemergency personnel.
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