Summary:

  • The Trump administration on Friday declared coronavirus a public health emergency in the United States, ordering quarantines of Americans who have been to certain parts of China. 
    • U.S. citizens who have been to China’s Hubei province during the past 14 days will be screened and will undergo mandatory quarantines of up to 14 days when they return to the U.S.
    • U.S. citizens who have been elsewhere in mainland China will be screened for symptoms and risk. If no symptoms are detected, they will be allowed to travel home and will be monitored by local health officials in isolation. 
    • Foreign nationals who “pose a risk for the transmission of the coronavirus” will be temporarily prohibited from entry into the U.S. 
    • All flights from China to the U.S. will be funneled into one of seven airports that are designated ports of entry: New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta. 
    • The new rules go into effect at 5 p.m. EST on Sunday. 
  • The World Health Organization declared coronavirus an international public health emergency on Thursday, reversing a decision not to last week after the disease rapidly spread in just a couple of days. The declaration marks the start of a more coordinated global response to the viral outbreak. 
    • The WHO declaration came the same day a sixth case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed in the U.S., the first time the virus has spread from person to person here.
  • The CDC this week issued a travel notice warning against non-essential travel to China due to the outbreak. 

Key Points

  • Officials stress that the threat to the American public remains low. 
  • Hundreds of students have been screened for the virus, but, at the time of this writing, there has been only two confirmed cases at college campuses. 
  • CDC officials said this is the first quarantine order by the federal government in 50 years. The last time a quarantine was ordered was during a smallpox outbreak in the 1960s. 
  • Declaring a “public health emergency of international concern” does not have the force of law. Governments can make their own decisions about closing borders, canceling flights, screening people arriving at airports or other protective measures. 

Further Reading

US declares public health emergency over coronavirus, NBC

Coronavirus: Trump declares health emergency, sets quarantines, USA Today

W.H.O. Declares Global Emergency as Wuhan Coronavirus Spreads, New York Times

Masks Are On. Games Are Canceled. Fear of the Coronavirus Comes to U.S. Colleges,  New York Times

Fears of coronavirus infection have university officials responding quickly, Washington Post

‘We do not want to risk our lives’: Amid coronavirus scares, colleges try to keep healthy, calm, USA Today

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