Yesterday afternoon, news broke that Miami International Airport (MIA) would receive some kind of special quarantine station for coronavirus screenings.
But MIA spokespeople are now correcting the record: They say the airport has long had a permanent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quarantine station because of the millions of international travelers Miami welcomes each year. Nineteen other ports of entry across the nation have such stations, which aim to thwart the spread of contagious diseases in the United States.
Last week, the CDC conducted public health entry screenings at five international airports in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago. But this past Monday, the CDC began screening all passengers for the virus at each of the 20 ports of entry with quarantine stations, including MIA.
"The health and safety of our passengers is of paramount importance to MIA," airport spokesperson Indira Almeida-Pardillo says.
MIA has no direct or connecting flights from the regions in China affected by the coronavirus. Although all passengers are expected to be screened, Almeida-Pardillo says travelers shouldn't be concerned about delays.
Nevertheless, more than 150,000 people are expected to travel to Miami from out of state for the Super Bowl this Sunday, and health professionals are preparing for any possible outbreak.
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Dr. Aileen Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University, told CBS4 Miami she hopes the virus "has nothing to do" with the big game, "but in all mass gatherings, like the Super Bowl, we worry when people come together in large numbers and there's a contagious disease on the planet."
The CDC can legally detain a person who might have an infectious disease, deny them entry to the United States, or send them to a hospital or a home to prevent the spread of disease. According to the CDC website, medical staff at quarantine stations conduct surveillance for communicable diseases at ports of entry. They respond to reports of illnesses on airplanes and other vessels, make health assessments, distribute medication, and prepare for emergencies. Staff will also inspect any cargo that might pose a health threat.
So far, five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed stateside, although none is in Florida. The CDC has investigated a total of 110 possible cases in the United States. Results are pending on 73 cases, and 32 have come back negative.
The CDC is advising travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to China, where at least 131 people have died and 4,600 cases have been confirmed. The Palm Beach Post has reported that 30 students and three teachers from the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens were required to stay home as a precaution after returning from a Yale University Model United Nations trip during which a Chinese student fell ill.