MANHASSET, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — CBS2 has learned some of the same international flights that have long been blamed for causing coronavirus to explode in our area are still operating.
So what are public officials doing to prevent another outbreak? CBS2’s Lisa Rozner demanded answers on Tuesday.
Pictures from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show officers in masks and gloves screening international travelers in mid-March.
Data from flightaware.com shows in the last two weeks international flights to Newark Liberty Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport have arrived from China, South Korea, and much of Europe, including the United Kingdom and Italy.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has regularly blamed the virus coming to New York on air travel.
“Three million European visitors came on flights to JFK or Newark, so that’s another lesson we have to learn,” Cuomo said recently.
On Tuesday, CBS2 demanded answers from the governor, asking what is that lesson?
“What is being done now to screen those travelers? What is the step-by-step process?” Rozner asked.
“That’s the federal government, that’s Border and Customs control,” Cuomo responded.
“But is there any coordination?” Rozner asked.
“There is coordination, but they determine who comes, who doesn’t come, is purely federal, and they determine what procedures and practices are in place,” Cuomo replied.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined CBS2’s request for an on-camera interview. A spokesperson referred all of our questions to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both agencies would only say there is an “enhanced entry screening,” adding the passenger is asked about medical history, current condition, and some are having their temperature taken.
It’s not clear how many travelers have had their temperature taken, or how the feds select those passengers.
One woman who traveled to Newark from Albania via Switzerland was one of them.
“They were very specific about how we need to do two-week quarantine,” the woman told Rozner.
“I haven’t seen anybody being screened for anything,” traveler Joe Horvath said.
Customs said state and local officials are ensuring compliance, but New Jersey and New York health officials acknowledge they are not tracking travelers once they land.
“So how do you make sure they stay quarantined for 14 days?” Rozner asked Cuomo.
“It’s not a state role,” the governor reiterated.
But it could become the state’s problem as airlines increase international flights.
Efforts to curb COVID-19 appear much stronger by airlines overseas, like in Dubai, where rapid testing is available before boarding, and Korea, where a health screening certificate is required before you fly.
Only time will tell if those kinds of measures will be taken when people land on U.S. soil.