ONTARIO (CBSLA) — An airport in San Bernardino was preparing Monday evening for the arrival of up to 240 United States citizens, including nine children, arriving from the Wuhan region of China where the novel strain of coronavirus has already killed at least 106 people.
The repatriation flights come as the U.S. moves to evacuate U.S. State Department employees, contractors who have been working in China and other U.S. citizens from illness-impacted areas. The flight is expected to arrive sometime Wednesday.
According to San Bernardino County officials, the State Office of Emergency Services notified them that Ontario International Airport may serve as the repatriation point for those residents who will be screened for symptoms of the deadly coronavirus before continuing onto their final destinations.
The county said it was working “closely with our state, city and ONT partners to prepare for this possible repatriation, focusing on ensuring the arriving citizens are free of any illness before clearing them to proceed to their respective U.S. destinations, and protecting the San Bernardino County community from the possibility of exposure to any contagions.”
ONT was designated by the federal government as an official repatriation center for the West Coast about a decade ago, and county departments have participated in a number of preparedness exercises with state and federal agencies over the years, the county said.
The plane will first arrive in Alaska, where passengers will be screened by personnel from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before continuing to the continental United States, possibly landing at ONT.
The county said any passenger exhibiting symptoms of an illness would not be allowed to enter the continental United States. Those who arrive would go through another round of screening by CDC personnel and would be monitored for up to two weeks.
The county said a number of departments were working together to establish a reception area and temporary living quarters in a space at ONT far removed from the passenger terminals and other public areas. Ontario police and other public safety personnel were said to be prepared to ensure no unauthorized persons entered or exited the area.
The airport was said it would operate as normal during the period of repatriation.