Americans evacuated from China virus zone pass health test

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A plane evacuating 201 Americans from the Chinese city at the centre of the virus outbreak continued Wednesday on to Southern California after everyone aboard passed a health screening test in Anchorage, where the aircraft had stopped to refuel.

All the passengers had already been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One passenger received medical attention for a minor injury that happened before boarding the airplane in China, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, told reporters after the plane left.

The U.S. government chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other Americans. The plane landed Tuesday night in Anchorage. The Americans will undergo additional health screenings in California and will be temporarily housed there for a period of time as they finish the repatriation process, officials said.

“For many of us directly involved in this, it’s become a moving and uplifting experience. The whole plane erupted into cheers when the crew welcomed them back to the United States,” Zink said.

“This is the best possible outcome,” state health commissioner Adam Crum said in a statement. “We wish these passengers the best of luck as they complete their journeys home and I am deeply grateful to everyone who came together to assist us in helping with this repatriation effort.”

State officials had said the plane could carry up to 240 passengers, and Zink said they were prepared for that number. “At the end of the day, 201 passengers loaded and 201 passengers left Alaska,” she said.

The flight crew remained on the upper level of the plane, entirely isolated from the )passengers for the entirety of the flight and did not get off the plane in China, putting them at low risk, she said.

The plane is now scheduled to land at March Air Reserve Base in California’s Riverside County, instead of the original plan to go to Ontario International Airport in neighbouring San Bernardino County.

Curt Hagman, an Ontario airport commissioner, said the Centers for Disease Control announced the diversion.

“We were prepared but the State Department decided to switch the flight” to the airbase, Hagman said.

Officials at the Ontario airport 35 miles (56 kilometres) east of Los Angeles had been readying facilities to receive and screen the repatriates and temporarily house them for up to two weeks — if the CDC determined that is necessary, said David Wert, spokesman for the county of San Bernardino.

Ontario International Airport was designated about a decade ago by the U.S. government to receive repatriated Americans in case of an emergency overseas, but it would have been the first time the facility was used for the purpose, Wert said.

Wuhan is the epicenter of a new virus that has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 people. China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities in Hubei province to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further. In addition to the United States, countries including Japan and South Korea have also planned evacuations. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and in more severe cases shortness of breath or pneumonia.

The Americans aboard the white cargo plane with red and gold stripes left Wuhan before dawn Wednesday, China time. They arrived in Anchorage at the mostly desolate North Terminal just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, local time. The jetway was extended from the end of the terminal, but it also had no windows. Passengers were not visible.

The passengers were isolated in the airport’s international terminal, which lies mostly dormant in the winter months. The terminal is not connected to the larger and heavily used domestic flights terminal, and each has separate ventilation systems, said Jim Szczesniak, manager of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

“In the wintertime, we have the ability and the luxury of not having any passenger traffic over there, so it’s a perfect area for us to handle this kind of flight,” he said.

___

Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report. Taxin reported from Santa Ana, California.

Mark Thiessen And Amy Taxin, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Bonnie Gustola criticized provincial government layoffs at a rally that drew more than 80 people at City Hall Park on Friday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
More than 80 rally in Red Deer against government health, education cutbacks

Rally at City Hall Park organized by the Council for Canadians

The higher the education level, the higher the income of some 1.3 million post-secondary graduates surveyed between 2010 and 2015, with master's degrees paying off the most. But the findings also suggest that gender and timing matter. (Black Press Media File).
2020 high school grads won’t get their ceremony

Decision announced by Lindsay Thurber and Hunting Hills high schools, and Gateway Christian School

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Police in Ottawa are investigating an incident of hate-motivated graffiti at the National War Memorial. The alleged incident happened last Friday night, when police say a man, shown in a police handout photo, used a sharp object to engrave a hateful message on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. THE CANADIAN PRESSS/HO-Ottawa Police Service MANDATORY CREDIT
Ottawa police investigating hate-motivated graffiti incident at National War Memorial

Ottawa police investigating hate-motivated graffiti incident at National War Memorial

Indigenous fisherman Robert Syliboy stands on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S. on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Tensions remain high over an Indigenous-led lobster fishery that has been the source of conflict with non-Indigenous fishermen. THE CANADIAN PRESS /Andrew Vaughan
For Mi’kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed

For Mi’kmaq fishers, dreams of a peaceful harvest on N.S. waters repeatedly dashed

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 21, 2020. Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, says he is set to tell Prime Minister Justin Trudeau he has 'lost confidence' in RCMP Commissioner Lucki. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Bellegarde wants Brenda Lucki out as head of RCMP

Bellegarde wants Brenda Lucki out as head of RCMP

This image released by CBS All Access shows Dan Illescas, left, and Tracey Stabile of the Central Texas Pig Rescue in a scene from the CBS All Access docuseries "That Animal Rescue Show." (Danny Matson/CBS All Access via AP)
Animals, people rescue each other in heartfelt docuseries

Animals, people rescue each other in heartfelt docuseries

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

Red Deer Rebels forward Jaxsen Wiebe scores his sixth goal of the WHL season in the first period against the Tri-City Americans on Saturday night at the Centrium. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
WHL grants players temporary transfer until mid-December

Players are eligible to suit up in Junior A, Junior B and U-18 ranks

Most Read