Thousands of Americans head home through Dulles Airport to dodge coronavirus abroad

cbp dulles
Officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Field Operations screen international passengers arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, March 13, 2020. In response to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) CBP officers have begun wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as they interact with passengers arriving from foreign countries. Many passengers have also donned PPE to safeguard themselves and others on their travels. (Courtesy CBP/Glenn Fawcett)

Over 14,000 Americans have returned to the states through Dulles International Airport in order to avoid facing the coronavirus pandemic overseas.

Javier Cortes, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency’s acting area port director for D.C., told WTOP that Dulles has primarily seen aid workers going through the screening process.

“They were Peace Corps volunteers working on special missions helping out other countries,” Cortes said. “For the most part, initially, that was a big chunk of the passengers we were receiving.”

Cortes added that a sense of urgency to reunite with family was evident for every passenger.

Dulles, which is located in Loudoun County, Virginia, was one of 13 funneling ports designated by the CBP to conduct COVID-19 screenings back on March 20.

In the nearly four weeks since the process began, 12 flights carrying 3,156 passengers from Peru were the most from a single country, a CBP news release said. Those arrivals made up a majority of people that evacuated South America, which was a total of 13 flights and 3,398 passengers.

Americans came from 60 flights across the globe, averaging 239 passengers per flight, according to the news release. Most passengers on a single trip came from Qatar (396) while the lowest amount of passengers for a single trip came from the Azores islands (6).

CBP outlined the total number of passengers that came from each continent in its release as well:

  • 26 flights from Africa with 6,667 passengers
  • 11 flights from Europe with 1,708 passengers
  • 10 flights from Asia with 2,592 passengers

More Coronavirus News

While CBP is doing its part to slow the spread of coronavirus, the Transportation and Security Administration announced that its employees at Dulles are making sure other airport workers are being fed.

A drop off in customers has caused airlines to cut hours for some employees and lay off others.

In response, TSA workers started a food pantry April 5 to repay the airport staff who helped them navigate last year’s government shutdown when they were furloughed.

The TSA’s food pantry at Dulles International Airport is seen. (Courtesy TSA)

“The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and vendors at the airport purchased meals for the TSA officers during that time,” said Eric Chin, TSA assistant federal security director for screening at Dulles.

“Now we’ve seen hundreds of layoffs taking place in the airport community and we figured we would do what we could do to give back and help.”

The food pantry is open every day for 8 hours a day.

It is stocked with dried and canned goods, such as vegetables, soups, cereal, oatmeal, tuna, beans, pasta, peanut butter, preserves, condiments and soda.

Some toiletry items are also available for those who need them.

Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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