Officials in Alaska say everything went as planned with a flight stopping briefly in Anchorage overnight returning 201 Americans from Wuhan, China, amid the spread of the coronavirus. At this point, there are no similar efforts planned for the Ted Stevens International Airport, although cargo flights from Wuhan have been suspended.
At a press conference Wednesday, members of the governor’s administration, medical professionals, and airport manager debriefed the repatriation flight.
The plane left for Southern California after everyone aboard passed a health screening test at Ted Stevens International Airport when the aircraft stopped there to refuel Tuesday night.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he was proud of the state’s response.
“The chances of any Alaskan getting sick as the result of this plane landing and then going through the screenings is basically zero. It’s extremely, extremely low,” he said.
State officials worked closely with federal and tribal partners. Overnight, the passengers were taken off their plane into the north terminal at Ted Stevens, which is closed to the public currently. There, they underwent health screenings and were all cleared to continue.
Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said the state used recently tested emergency coordination strategies from natural disasters and global health crises over the last several years.
“We took the experiences and the work and the preparation that went into the e bola outbreak, the mumps outbreak, our recent earthquake, and so many more events, and applied them to this current challenge.”
According to Zink, federal officials have not said whether they plan to repatriate any more citizens through Alaska. Officials stress that for the flying public in Alaska there are no changes to expect as a result of the coronavirus. But they do stress taking special care to practice good hygiene, like thorough hand-washing and covering coughs, particularly if you’re traveling through airports.
Zink, as well as the governor, recounted relieved citizens on the plane once it touched down in Anchorage.
“When I reflect back on the moments of these past few days, it’s really the cheers on the plane, the harrowing stories of US citizens trying to get home. The sounds of children being grateful for a stuff animal being donated by the Red Cross. Or the gentleman wanting to leave one of his few possessions, a pen with a U.S. and Chinese flag on it, to thank a worker that was helping to care for him.”
The airport’s north terminal is separate from the domestic terminal most flying Alaskans are familiar with, and has its own separate ventilation system.