The White House announced today that five airports will add an “additional layer of screening” to incoming passengers to try to catch people who may be infected with the Ebola virus.
Press secretary Josh Earnest said JFK in New York, Newark airport, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles and Hartsfield in Atlanta were chosen because they “are the destination of 94 percent of individuals who travel to the United States from the three countries that are currently affected by Ebola right now.”
“So, the vast majority of passengers from those countries would get — would be subject to this additional layer of screening,” Earnest told reporters.
“The thing that’s important for people to understand is we continue to have a lot of confidence in the screening measures that are already in place and have been in place for some time now,” he added. “By far the most effective screening measure that is in place is not any screening that takes place here in the United States, it’s the screening that takes place in these three countries in West Africa where they’re experiencing this Ebola outbreak.”
Earnest said what they’ve been focused on “is not just enhancing safety, but also ensuring that we do so with — without placing a significant burden or causing a significant disruption to the rest of the traveling public.”
“And so the measures that, again, will be discussed in more detail later today fit that bill. We’re able to target these measures, specifically to individuals who were traveling from these three countries,” he said.
“This is a relatively small group — well, not relatively. This is, almost by any measure, a very small percentage of the broader traveling public who will be subject to these additional measures. We’re talking about, on average, of about 150 people total at those five airports, not — 150 people total at those five airports every day.”
Earnest said that’s the number of passengers “that originated or have recently traveled to those three countries” and “are entering the United States at those five airports every day.”
“The point is, is that this is an additional layer of screening that can be targeted to that small population in a way that will enhance security, but also minimize disruption to the broader traveling public.”
The additional screening measures “will involve personnel from CBP, from the Coast Guard, and CDC officials will also be on hand if a response is necessary.”
UPDATE 3:50 p.m. EST: The screening procedure, as detailed by the CDC:
Travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be escorted by CBP to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
· Trained CBP staff will observe them for signs of illness, ask them a series of health and exposure questions and provide health information for Ebola and reminders to monitor themselves for symptoms. Trained medical staff will take their temperature with a non-contact thermometer.
· If the travelers have fever, symptoms or the health questionnaire reveals possible Ebola exposure, they will be evaluated by a CDC quarantine station public health officer. The public health officer will again take a temperature reading and make a public health assessment. Travelers, who after this assessment, are determined to require further evaluation or monitoring will be referred to the appropriate public health authority.
· Travelers from these countries who have neither symptoms/fever nor a known history of exposure will receive health information for self-monitoring.