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U.S. has screened 17,000 passengers at 11 airports so far

U.S. agencies have screened 17,000 passengers for coronavirus at 11 airports since Sunday, a top U.S. health official said Friday, with another 4,000 expected to be screened by the end of the day.

Those 11 airports have become the front line of the federal government’s defense against the virus, which as of Friday had infected more than 31,000 people in China and 300 people in other locations, including 12 in the United States.

Coronavirus has killed more than 600 people, all but a few of them in China and none in the United States.

Still, officials said Friday they were likely to see more Americans who’ve traveled in China in recent weeks to test positive.

“We expect to see additional cases from returning passengers,” said Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a briefing in Washington.

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On Sunday, agencies within the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services began a three-layer screening process at 11 airports across the country receiving passengers from China.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar speaks during a press briefing on the coronavirus, in the briefing room of the White House, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Washington. From left, acting Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy at the Department of Transportation Joel Szabat, Azar, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Anthony Fauci.

That process begins with Customs and Border Protection agents who question passengers where they’ve been traveling. Those determined to be at risk are sent to a secondary screening with contract health workers. At that point, passengers have their temperature taken and are asked if they have any symptoms.

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Any passengers who show signs of infection are then further evaluated by CDC personnel. Those who have visited Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter, face a 14-day quarantine before they can complete their trip. Those who have visited other parts of China are directed to stay home and monitor for signs of infection.

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