Update: The Ted Stevens International airport released its own statement on the flight’s arrival and additional precautions being taken.
The Ted Stevens International Airport’s North Terminal will be closed to the public and additional steps are being taken to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus, the state announced today, ahead of a refueling stop of a flight carrying American citizens out of Wuhan City.
The announcement today from the Department of Health and Social Services says some 240 U.S. citizens are currently scheduled to return to the U.S. from the epicenter of the outbreak a new strain of coronavirus, which has been associated with 56 deaths worldwide. The announcement says the stopover will occur sometime this week but doesn’t name a specific day.
“Given Alaska’s proximity to Asia, we have been asked to assist our federal partners in this effort to facilitate travel out of China back to the United States to bring these U.S. citizens home,” said Gov. Mike Dunleavy in a prepared statement accompanying the announcement. “The State of Alaska, in combination with our local, federal and Tribal partners have been working closely to ensure the health and safety of all Alaskans while assisting with this request.”
The flight will be handled at the North Terminal, which is typically reserved for international travel and is rarely used. It is separate from the South Terminal, which handles domestic flights and is the one most of us are all familiar with.
The Anchorage airport released its own statement later in the day, noting that all air cargo flights from Wuhan City have been suspended indefinitely. It noted, though, that six such flights have have landed in Anchorage this year prior to the halting of travel.
“The airport has facilities and procedures in place. Any flights suspected of carrying passengers with communicable diseases will be isolated. All international flights and flights suspected of carrying passengers with a communicable disease are processed in the North Terminal where CDC staff and quarantine facilities are located,” said Jim Szczesniak, airport manager, in a prepared statement. “No flights suspected of carrying passengers with a communicable disease are processed in our main domestic terminal. The North Terminal is completely isolated from the domestic terminal and closed to the public.”
The state has activated its Emergency Operations Center “out of an abundance of caution” to help coordinate efforts between the state and the federal government.
As far as screenings go, the announcement says “all passengers and flight crew will undergo health screenings by Chinese health officials and U.S. health officials. Anyone with signs or symptoms of illness will not be allowed to board the aircraft. All passengers will continue to be monitored numerous times during the flight. Additionally, during the refueling stop, all passengers will be rescreened by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Anchorage Quarantine Station personnel. Any passengers who become ill en route will be further evaluated.”
Alaska has no documented cases of the latest form of coronavirus, but a case was reported in Seattle last week. The state has set up a special website with Alaska-specific information about the new coronavirus outbreak.