UPDATED: 5:17 p.m. ET, Jan. 31 —
Health officials were taking bold new steps to address the highly contagious coronavirus that originated in China but has been spreading quickly around the world, including within the U.S.
“Starting Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, all passengers on flights to the United States who have been in Hubei province in China in the last 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of quarantine,” NBC News reported. However, there was still no ban on traveling to the U.S. from China, where the city of Wuhan is credited for being the epidemic’s epicenter. Wuhan is in Hubei province.
Regardless of travelers’ ultimate destination, anyone flying from Hubei will be quarantined at an airport in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago or Atlanta.
The news of the planned quarantine of passengers flying from China to the U.S. came on the same day that President Donald Trump named additional Muslim-majority countries to the existing travel ban that many have characterized as a Muslim ban. Among the countries being added were four African nations: Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, according to CNN. Their additions brought the number of African countries on the travel ban to six, including Libya and Somalia.
In addition to the African nations on the travel ban, the other countries added on Friday — Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar — joined Iran, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea. Not China.
UPDATED: 3:23 p.m. ET, Jan. 30 —
On the same day, the first case of coronavirus being spread from person-to-person in the U.S. was reported, as well. That brought the total number of people in the U.S. infected with coronavirus to six, according to NBC News. At least 170 people in China have died from coronavirus and about 8,000 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Despite those truths, as of Thursday, President Donald Trump still had not called for a ban on travel to and from China while his administration was reportedly poised to add four more African nations to the existing American travel ban to and from a number of Muslim-majority countries that has been decried as racist.
Instead, the State Department on Thursday issued a travel advisory to China, but only after the WHO declared a global health emergency. The State Department’s color-coded advisory was raised to a red level 4, the highest it can go that encourages Americans against traveling to China.
But there still was no actual travel ban to China, unlike the additional African nations expected to be tacked on to Trump’s existing travel ban to Muslim-majority countries. Trump was expected on Friday to announce the updated list of countries on his travel ban, according to Politico. Ironically, that announcement was delayed because the administration was responding to the coronavirus crisis that involved travel to the U.S. from China.
Original story from Jan. 24:
As the deadly coronavirus was spreading quicker than previously feared in the U.S., President Donald Trump was reportedly set to add more countries to the growing list of places that Americans are banned from traveling to or from. Among them were four more African nations. However, conspicuously missing from the proposed additions to the travel ban was China, where at least two dozen people have died from the coronavirus, an ailment that has also afflicted at least two people who are in the U.S.
The development prompted the question of whether there should be a moratorium on U.S. travel to and from China while this pandemic gets sorted out.
The Centers for Disease Control on Friday confirmed that a woman in Chicago who had recently returned from China was diagnosed with coronavirus, according to the Washington Post. Another woman in the Seattle area was also diagnosed with coronavirus after recently returning from the Central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus is said to have originated. A three-year-old girl was also hospitalized in Arizona with coronavirus, although the strain that the toddler is infected with is different from and less severe than the deadly one from China.
In addition, at least 50 people are under observation for coronavirus in 22 different states.
Still, the Trump administration reportedly thinks it should be more of a priority to add the African nations of Eritrea, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania along with Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar — and not China — to the travel ban, which already includes majority Muslim countries of Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia as well as North Korea and Venezuela.
The new countries were being considered as additions to the travel ban because of lingering terror threats, Reuters reported this week. But the coronavirus is also a proven killer and has now infiltrated the United States borders, all but assuring the virus will continue to spread domestically. Already 25 people have died in China with 800 more infected, according to CNN. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that the coronavirus was spreading more easily than previously thought.
Despite those expert opinions, Trump said on Wednesday that he trusts Chinese President Xi Jinping — the same man he’s been engaged in a damaging trade war with — and insisted that “It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
The U.S., as well as other Western nations, have set up airport screening stations to check passengers returning from China, but those tests were obviously not foolproof as shown by the confirmed two women diagnosed in America with coronavirus.
With that said, there may actually be a method to Trump’s madness with handling the coronavirus. Vox reported earlier this week that there is evidence that travel bans are not effective against diseases like coronavirus, which causes symptoms of viral pneumonia.
“At best, travel restrictions, and even airport screenings, delay the spread of disease but don’t impact the number of people who eventually get sick,” Vox wrote. “Instead, they make it harder for international aid and experts to reach communities affected by disease.”
The Wuhan coronavirus is thought to have originated from a seafood market.