With the coronavirus outbreak exploding around the world, with thousands of confirmed cases in over 40 different countries, international travelers are concerned about the safety measures being practiced to contain the virus and quell the aggressive spread. At the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, passengers looking to get through the immigration process as quickly as possible are appalled by the lack of proper screening conducted by airport employees, especially compared to the procedures done in the countries they had just left.
Emily Ferrara and Blair Haworth are two students returning from Florence, Italy, where their study program was canceled due to the virus outbreak. As reported by Natural News, Italy has about 896 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the second largest outbreak outside of China. However, CBS revealed that these students were never questioned about anything related to the virus once they landed in New York City.
“We didn’t even get checked. Like we’re used to being in Florence where you get your temperature checked. Here they didn’t do anything, which is kind of crazy,” Ferrara said. “Considering, like, how much the cases have spread so fast, like, they should definitely be taking more precautions here.”
Currently, only passengers arriving from Wuhan, China – ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak – are being screened at select airports around the United States, including JFK Airport, San Francisco International, O’Hare International in Chicago, and a number of other international airports. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar claimed that the Trump administration is expanding the number of airports conducting screening from five to 20. However, there is still no information as to whether LaGuardia and Newark airports – two of the closest international entry points to NYC – would be part of the additional 15.
As of writing, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NYC, although 27 people have been tested for the virus and 700 individuals have opted to self-quarantine as a safety precaution.
COVID-19 is a flu-like disease caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is closely related to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. The disease is caused by a virus designated as SARS-CoV-2 by the Coronavirus Study Group (CSG) of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. COVID, on the other hand, is short for “coronavirus disease.” Those with confirmed cases reported symptoms such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath. However, severe cases of COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia and death. (Related: Harvard Professor: As much as 70% of the global population will catch coronavirus.)
To prepare for a virus outbreak that the CDC claimed to be inevitable, NYC officials are scrambling to make plans to lessen the impact of the virus. NYC mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that the city is working toward acquiring at least 1,200 brand new hospital beds to be available throughout the city specifically for affected patients.
“We’re in a state of high vigilance, high readiness all across city government to address this crisis,” de Blasio said in a report by CBS.
De Blasio is also looking to acquire at least 300,000 more surgical masks after distributing about 1.5 million masks to hospitals, healthcare centers and first responders, including the New York Police Department (NYPD). Finally, de Blasio requested the CDC to expand its screening of travelers that arrive at international airports from Italy, South Korea and Japan, among others.
“Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand. Anyone needs to be screened and if they have symptoms they need to be quarantined,” de Blasio said.