U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois called on the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tuesday to clarify airport screening protocol and guidance amid the coronavirus outbreak in and out of state.
Durbin sent a letter to CDC Director Robert Redfield outlinining concerns as "travelers from countries with high incidences of COVID-19 and State Department and CDC travel advisories are not being screened, particularly Italy and South Korea," he stated.
"With Chicago O’Hare Airport being one of the first airports to conduct CDC screening—and being one of the busiest airports in America—I write to obtain clarification and clear guidance from CDC about airport screening procedures in place to protect Americans from the coronavirus pandemic," he said.
Durbin noted the two coronavirus cases regarding individuals that came through O’Hare International Airport from Italy and were not screened by the CDC, who later tested positive for the virus.
“Given the global spread of the virus—and the increased cases we have seen from Italy and other countries with travel advisories—it is critical to have a comprehensive screening process in place for travelers coming from highly infected areas, and to ensure that our screeners are protected," Durbin wrote. "I urge the CDC to consider expanding traveler screening to other high risk countries, improve workplace protections for screeners, coordinate with the State Department on travel advisories, and provide clear communication to airports and all Americans on travel guidelines and procedures related to COVID-19."
Durbin mentioned the discrepancy in travel advisories between the CDC and the State Department, which has issued Level 4 Travel Advisories (banning temporary travel) to China, Iran, and South Korea, in addition to issuing Level 3 Travel Advisories (cautioning people to reconsider traveling) to Italy, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. The CDC on the other hand, issued Level 3 Travel Health notices for China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Though "travelers from only two of these countries with high level travel advisories—China and Iran—are currently being screened at U.S. airports for symptoms of COVID-19," the statement read.
Illinois officials confirmed 8 additional coronavirus cases in the state Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 19.