Update: Americans Heading Home From Wuhan Will Not Land At Ontario Airport
Ontario Airport officials said late last night that they were no longer prepping to repatriate Americans returning from Wuhan, China, which is the epicenter of what's becoming a worldwide outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus.
The change in plans came a day after airport officials had gotten word that a jet carrying as Americans from China was scheduled to arrive sometime this week.
Why Ontario? The airport is an official repatriation point for California.
The flight in question plane took off from China on Tuesday, en route first to Alaska where the AP reports everyone passed an initial health screening.
Now authorities say the plane has been diverted to a nearby Air Force base in Riverside County, located about 30 miles to the east of Ontario Airport. The flight landed about 8 a.m. Wednesday.
"We were prepared but the State Department has decided to switch the flight to March Air Force Base for logistics that they have," San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman said in a video he released late Tuesday night.
It wasn’t immediately clear why the shift had happened, although some critics had questioned using Ontario Airport, which handled more than 5 million passengers last year, as a destination for passengers traveling from a region where the novel coronavirus began.
Riverside County officials said they expected about 210 passengers to arrive Wednesday morning.
"The screening process will be very thorough and ensure these people can get back home and not put anyone at risk," said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, county public health officer in a statement released overnight.
In a news conference earlier Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the flight was chartered by the U.S. government and the passengers included diplomatic staff, their families, and other Americans leaving Wuhan, which is under quarantine.
"We will be heavily engaged with that flight and the transport of those individuals — they'll be screened, evaluated constantly with physicians on the flight," Azar explained, adding that anyone showing symptoms when they landed in Alaska would not be allowed to continue into the continental United States.