Donald Trump insisted Sunday that Americans experience daunting wait times and massive lines at airports remain calm, claiming the chaos is due to medical screening to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
‘We are doing very precise Medical Screenings at our airports,’ Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon. ‘Pardon the interruptions and delays, we are moving as quickly as possible, but it is very important that we be vigilant and careful.’
‘We must get it right,’ he asserted. ‘Safety first!’
Thousands of Americans are facing massive lines as they are funneled back into the country through immigration lines where some are forced to wait for eight hours to get through.
There are 13 American ‘funnel’ airports where Americans are returning from Europe as the president shut down travel between the continent and U.S. over fears of coronavirus spreading.
Donald Trump urged Americans to remain calm as they face massive wait times and lines at airports u[on returning from Europe
‘We are doing very precise Medical Screenings at our airports,’ the president asserted, adding it is important to be ‘careful’ and ‘vigilant’ in stopping the spread of coronavirus from those returning to the U.S. from out of the country
There are 13 airports across the country that are acting as ‘funnel’ locations where people returning from Europe have to go through after Donald Trump imposed a travel ban to the continent this week
Some are facing up to eight hours in the lines, where they are standing close to thousands of other international travelers
Overcrowding at airports began Saturday night as top U.S. immunologist expert Anthony Fauci told people to avoid public areas where there are a lot of people around.
‘We’d like to not see crowds like that,’ Fauci told Fox News’s Chris Wallace Sunday morning when discussing the scenes from the airports.
‘I think people understand if you’re an American citizen, if you are a family member, that you can get back, you don’t need to rush back,’ he said. ‘But it’s understandable if when people see a travel ban, they immediately want to … get home.’
Trump previewed Sunday that the coronavirus task force would be holding a press conference at the White House later in the evening.
“There will be a News Conference by the CoronaVirus Task Force today at the White House, 5 P.M.,” he tweeted, tagging Vice President Mike Pence, who is heading the task force.
“We are working closely with the Governors of our Country’s great States, which are a very big factor,” he continued. “They are working hard, along with us, to get the job properly done.”
“The USA was never set up for this,” he asserted of the coronavirus outbreak, “just look at the catastrophe of the H1N1 Swine Flu (Biden in charge, 17,000 people lost, very late response time), but it soon will be. Great decision to close our China, and other, borders early. Saved many lives!”
The scenes at the 13 airports were similar across the country – from Boston to Chicago, Atlanta to Dallas.
Trump also previewed an upcoming press briefing from the coronavirus outbreak later in the day Sunday
He also lauded his administration for saving lives by shutting down borders – especially with China – early on in the outbreak
Welcome home! Arriving passengers from Europe have faced hours-long lines as travelers are forced to enter through 13 designated ‘funnel’ airports. This was the scene arriving at Chicago O’Hare airport
Lines snaked around the corner of the terminal at Chicago O’Hare on Saturday evening as passengers waited patiently
Lines are taking far longer than usual due to ‘enhanced COVID19 screening’ where passengers are being asked a series of questions before being told to self-quarantine and follow CDC guidelines
Lines were particularly bad at JFK Terminal 4, Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5 and Dallas/Fort Worth airport with passengers packed in tight, many of them wearing face masks.
Customs and Border Protection Officers were completely overwhelmed as U.S. citizens rushed to get back into the country as President Trump’s European travel ban went into effect following his Oval Office address Wednesday evening.
Some passengers reported that just six out of a possible 60 booths were staffed with agents at JFK Terminal 4.
At Chicago O’Hare airport, lines could be seen snaking along corridors and up escalators as passengers were given additional health screenings.
It was a similar picture at Dallas/Fort Worth airport with passengers waiting for hours and many resigned to sitting on the floor while passengers were processed.
Many were concerned about being so close to others during the coronavirus outbreak.
DFW airport said: ‘CBP officers and the CDC are following federal guidelines to conduct enhanced screening for passengers.’
Under the restrictions, American citizens and green card holders are able to return home to the U.S., but only through one of the 13 designated airports under the understanding that they may also be subjected to health screenings and quarantine orders.
Passengers are pictured waiting in line for up to six hours at Chicago O’Hare. They are not being tested for coronavirus or having their temperatures taken, but instead being asked a series of questions about their health and travel history
Lines lasted for several hours as passengers were packed in tight while they waited to pass through customs
It was a similar scene at JFK Terminal 4 as passengers were packed in tight while they waited to be processed
One passenger at JFK Terminal 4, pictured, estimated there to be thousands of people waiting to clear customs
The Governor of Illinois was upset as seeing enormous lines at Chicago O’Hare airport and blamed the President
On Saturday, President Trump announced the United States was to broaden its European travel ban and adding the United Kingdom and Ireland to its list. He originally announced the European travel suspension in his Oval Office address Wednesday.
‘President Donald J. Trump Vice President Mike Pence since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to – you need to do something NOW,’ Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker scolded the Trump administration on Twitter after witnessing the lines at O’Hare.
‘To the frustrated people trying to get home, I have spoken with the mayor and our Senators and we are working together to get the federal government to act to solve this. We will do everything within our power to get relief. The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW.
Upon arriving in the country, passengers are subjected to ‘enhanced screening’ where they won’t have their temperatures taken or be tested for COVID-19, but are asked a series of questions about their medical conditions and travel history.
Then, they’ll be advised to self-quarantine and follow CDC guidelines.
‘Upon arrival, travelers will proceed to standard customs processing. They will then continue to enhanced entry screening where the passenger will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities.
‘Passengers will then be given written guidance about COVID-19 and directed to proceed to their final destination, and immediately home-quarantine in accordance with CDC best practices,’ the announcement read.
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf described the measures as ‘aggressive’.
He added: ‘To minimize disruptions to travelers, TSA, CBP, and air carriers are working to identify qualifying passengers before their scheduled flights.
‘These passengers will be rerouted to one of the 13 airports by their airline at no cost to them,’ he said.
The measures are far less severe than had been suggested by Trump in his address, or promised by him on Thursday.
Trump insisted that Americans would be tested for the virus before they got on planes in Europe and that if any of them tested positive for the virus, they would not be allowed to board.
He did not provide any context for such plans including who would provide the tests, where he would find them and what would happen to passengers who subsequently tested positive.
It was no better at Dallas/Fort Worth. There were no offers of hand sanitizer, gloves, or masks. Travelers said they had no screenings of temperature and nobody was following ‘coronavirus protocols’
The scene at Newark airport in New Jersey was also horrendous with passengers have no choice but to wait it out
Passengers reunite with family members in the International arrivals zone at Dulles airport outside Washington DC
Trump in the Rose Garden on Friday afternoon announcing his plans to increase testing and boasting about how he had stunted the virus by closing the border
Some of the European airline counters at John F. Kennedy International Airport were seen to be empty in New York on Friday
Trump tweeted on Friday morning that his ‘strong’ border policy helped stave off the crisis
Thousands of Americans scrambled to get home on Friday, often paying thousands of dollars for their fare before the borders close.
US airlines like Delta have also begun pulling their flight schedules to Europe, raising the question that transatlantic travel may soon be entirely halted for the entirety of Trump’s 30 day ban.
There remains an abundance of questions over how long the virus will last, how it will impact America and how Americans will be able to rid themselves of it.
There is currently no cure and no vaccine, and only the severely sick or people showing severe symptoms are being given tests due to a shortage and lack of lab staff.
Trump declared a national state of emergency as the World Health Organization named Europe the new epicenter of the coronavirus Friday, with countries sealing borders, shutting schools and canceling events in a frenzied attempt to slow the ballooning pandemic.
Americans traveling in Europe scrambled to buy last-minute plane tickets, in some cases spending thousands of dollars each, in hopes of speedily returning to the country before President Trump’s travel ban comes into effect.
One family of three paid nearly $8,000 for three one-way tickets from Paris to New York.
‘I feel like they were putting a price tag on people’s safety,’ Coral McNary told ABC News on Friday.
‘That’s scary, especially if people can’t afford it.’
Jake Genachowski, an American who was traveling in Switzerland, made it back home just in time before the ban kicked in.
He said that when he arrived, there was no screening for coronavirus.
‘Just made it through customs, Genachowski told ABC News shortly after arriving back in the states.
He said arriving passengers were asked if they had flu-like symptoms, but they were not asked if they had been to Italy or any other country hard-hit by the coronavirus.