DHS: Medical Screening Conducted on Returning Travelers, Including from a Distance

“YOU ARE BEING LOOKED AT”

by Sharon Rondeau

Chad Wolf

(Mar. 21, 2020) — In an interview with Saturday’s “Fox & Friends” hosts shortly after 8:00 a.m. EDT, Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf described the agency’s role in the fight against the coronavirus, which President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13.

U.S. citizens who are in countries which the U.S. now designates as travel-restricted are permitted to return, Wolf said. When the national emergency was declared, the administration designated 13 U.S. airports where returning U.S. citizens can debark.  Those travelers are receiving “screening” for signs of illness, Wolf said, even if their temperature is not checked.

When the new travel policy was implemented, photos were posted online of returning travelers packed closely together in several of the 13 airports who reported having received no screening, a point co-host Jedidiah Bila raised.  “What does that screening process look like?” she asked. “Has it been solidified in any way since then?”

“So we’ve heard a lot about that,” Wolf responded.  “We’ve heard about individuals coming in from some of these countries, and then other countries claiming they weren’t screened, they weren’t looked at, and I can just say that’s not accurate.  So even though you may not get your temperature checked, you are being looked at; you are being screened, even if it’s from a distance, from medical personnel.  So everyone’s having their – looked at; everyone’s determining on whether they look sick or they’re showing symptoms; are they symptomatic or are they asymptomatic.  We’re collecting a variety of information; we provided a questionnaire; we’re getting contact information so that if we do need to reach out to you because you’ve come in contact with someone who is sick, that we have that contact information.  We’re passing that on to the CDC and local health officials. But there are random temperature checks, so there is medical screening going on at all 13 of these airports.”

As he stated at the White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference on Friday, Wolf reiterated that those entering the U.S. illegally from Canada and Mexico are being “repatriated and removed.” Prior to the coronavirus crisis, illegal aliens were held temporarily in facilities operated by the U.S. Border Patrol, a division of DHS, or later returned to Mexico under the Trump administration’s controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy to await adjudication of their asylum claims.

As for American citizens unable to leave the nations they were visiting due to new restrictions on departures, Wolf said, “The State Department is working with a number of those individuals; they’ve identified, they’ve stood up a task force that’s working 24/7.  We have a couple of spots around the globe where we do see that; we have Americans caught in countries that have closed their borders, but the State Department is facilitating their exit. We try to remove them on commercial flights when possible, and when it’s not possible, we take other measures in hand.”

On March 19, the State Department recommended that Americans no longer travel “anywhere in the world,” Wolf reminded the audience.  “We don’t want Americans caught overseas.  So again, we’re trying to limit non-essential travel whenever possible.”

 

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