People were sharing appalling photos on Twitter Saturday of jam-packed airports as crowds of Americans flying home from overseas were being screened for the novel coronavirus under new federal travel requirements instituted by President Donald Trump.
The crowds and hourslong waits were exactly what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned against as a way to spread the illness.
Photos revealed stalled wall-to-wall passengers in particular at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Officials at O’Hare were handing out disinfectant wipes among the mobbed travelers, according to witnesses.
Angry Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was particularly expressive about the situation at mobbed O’Hare.
The crowds snaking slowly through U.S. Customs — which is controlled by the federal government — at the airport are “unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately,” Pritzker tweeted. He used Twitter, he told Trump in his tweet, “since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to.” Pritzker added: “You need to do something NOW.” The federal government needs to get its “s@#t together,” he added.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot complained that the situation at O’Hare was placing thousands of travelers at greater health risk. “No one has time for your incompetence,” she tweeted at Trump. “Fully staff our airport right now, and stop putting Americans in danger.”
O’Hare officials apologized for the nightmare on Twitter, explaining that U.S. Customs “processing is taking longer than usual ... owing to enhanced COVID-19 screening.” Another tweet noted: “We have strongly encouraged our federal partners to increase staffing to meet demand.”
Under the new regulations that went into effect Friday at midnight, Americans flying in from most of Europe, China and Iran now face “enhanced entry screening.” They must answer questions about their medical history and current condition, and must provide contact information for local health authorities, according to a Department of Homeland Security statement. They are then expected to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.