Since Trump’s Europe travel ban went into effect, Americans returning home have been diverted through just thirteen US airports, also as new federal travel requirements and coronavirus ‘enhanced’ screening instituted by President Trump are implemented.
Videos and photos posted to social media reveal a weekend of insanity and packed airport queues in an increasingly ‘high risk’ health crisis.
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport revealed the most chaotic scenes: thousands standing should-to-shoulder in an airport corridor amid a deadly pandemic, reportedly for at least seven hours before entering the screening area and airport exit.
— Breaking Aviation News (@breakingavnews) March 15, 2020
Airports authorized to receive return flights from Europe, and which are set up for Covid-19 screening, include the following according to the advisory:
- Atlanta: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Boston: Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Chicago: Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Dallas/Fort Worth: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Detroit: Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
- Honolulu: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
- Los Angeles: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Miami: Miami International Airport (MIA)
- New York City: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- Newark, N.J.: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- San Francisco: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- Seattle: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- Washington, D.C.: Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)
O’Hare Airport acknowledged Saturday in a public statement that screening and control areas were taking “longer than usual”. The ‘enhanced screening’ includes a temperature check and questions about flyers’ recent travel history.
This is the scene at O’Hare airport. The traveler who took the photo said it’s a 6-hour wait for bags then on to customs for 2-4 more of waiting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Police are handing out water and disinfectant wipes. @fly2ohare #ord #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/UTx9E0nj1s
— Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) March 15, 2020
The airport chaos led to a response from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker who tweeted that the situation at O’Hare and the massive crowds were “unacceptable”.
Other officials slammed the intensifying situation as creating a serious health risk.
Over 4 hours later…back in the large hall, not sure where the #Covid19 screening happens. They've handed out snacks, water & r/r breaks. Def missing my flight home tonight. Not sure what's next #ohare #StillStanding #BreathingLessons #MouseInAMaze pic.twitter.com/iT9jYvNKoN
— Michael A Sadler (@Michael_Sadler) March 15, 2020
Airport staff at O’Hare and other airports were seen handing out snacks, water, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to the anxious crowds.
Passengers waited in line for hours at customs at @DFWAirport. Many concerned about being so close to others during the #COVIDー19 outbreak. The airport saying “CBP officers and the CDC are following federal guidelines to conduct enhanced screening for passengers” @FOX4 pic.twitter.com/4BFUEau0Hg
— Steven Dial (@StevenDialFox4) March 15, 2020
The WSJ interviewed one frustrated passenger who described the Covid-19 screening measures:
Lonnie Corpus was returning from Iceland with friends—retired teachers from Wisconsin. Their flight landed at 6:40 p.m. They made it out at about 11 p.m. The questioning itself, and a quick temperature check, didn’t take long once they made it to the front of the line that snaked around corners.
State and local officials are now urging the federal government to step in and assist with the massive delays and airport infrastructure strain, but whatever drastic action might be taken increasingly looks too little too late.