Alert, monitoring, but no enhanced coronavirus screening at DC-area airports

With the spread of a new coronavirus, passengers arriving from Wuhan, China, will be screened for the virus at five airports in the U.S., but no such screenings are planned at the three airports serving the D.C. area.

Officials at Dulles International Airport, Reagan National Airport and BWI Marshall Airport told WTOP on Wednesday they were not aware of any plans for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add the local airports.

Wuhan is not one of the cities in China with service to Dulles, although passengers from Wuhan can connect to flights that arrive at Dulles.

At BWI Marshall, there are no nonstop flights between the airport and anywhere in Asia.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told WTOP that in times of public health outbreaks elsewhere in the world, screening is enhanced at U.S. airports to try to prevent the disease from entering this country.

On Tuesday, health officials reported the first U.S. case of the virus, in a man in Washington state who had returned from visiting family in Wuhan.

Enhanced screening was already underway at the John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports before Tuesday’s announcement by the CDC that Chicago’s O’Hare and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airports were joining the list.

Fauci said he believes the current enhanced security at the five airports will be sufficient to control possible outbreaks in the U.S.

“They’ll also be funneling other flights that have people on it that may have originated in those regions, to go through those five airports,” Fauci said. “I think the CDC and Department of Homeland Security, with the screening, are doing absolutely the appropriate thing.”

Fauci said that while the coronavirus continues to spread in China, he believes it will not severely affect the U.S.

“This is not something that’s really high-risk in general, for the U.S. public, so I don’t think the U.S. public should be worrying about it, but certainly paying attention to it,” and following the guidance of government public health officials.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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