CHICAGO (CBS) — The Wuhan coronavirus has already prompted the largest quarantine in human history in China, and now U.S. officials have also taken extraordinary measures – beginning at the nation’s busiest airports.
Advanced screening measures were set to start Sunday at O’Hare International Airport.
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But as CBS 2’s Steven Graves reported Sunday, local and federal officials stressed that the American public is at low risk. Some made a statement on Sunday.
In Chinatown on Wentworth Avenue Sunday, the Lunar New Year Parade went on as planned.
There was plenty of joy and smiles – some that were noticeably hidden behind masks as fears of the coronavirus grow.
“We live in Chinatown. The virus is, you know, coming from China, so the risk is higher,” said Chinatown resident Agata Hepburn, who had a mask on.
“The safety of our family is everything, so family is first,” said Terry Austin of Chicago, who was also wearing a mask.
But most people did not wear masks – using it as a statement.
“It’s also a chance to show that, like, it’s actually not as rampant or as much as an outbreak as people are hyping it up to be,” said Phyllis.
Argyle Street in Uptown was also packed Saturday with people celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year. Some of the marchers likewise wore face masks.
All of this comes as the Chicago area has two of the eight confirmed cases of the deadly virus in the U.S.
The White House has announced that no foreigners who have recently traveled to China are allowed in America. Meanwhile, U.S. citizens coming in from China are being funneled to seven airports, including O’Hare International Airport.
Those coming from the Hubei Province – the epicenter of the virus – will be quarantined and monitored for two weeks.
CBS 2 asked Mayor Lori Lightfoot – who was not wearing a mask at the Lunar New Year Parade – about this will look like. She said a local response is ready, but there are more questions than answers when it comes to federal funding and organization.
“We want to make sure that the federal government is giving clear, consistent guidance and that they are also stepping up to handle their responsibility for this,” the mayor said.
Specifically, Chicago Police, fire, and emergency officials are planning for potential quarantine demands.
But Mayor Lightfoot said the discussions over phone calls with federal officials continued throughout the day – and they spent hours trying to iron out details of the public health response.
For some perspective, this is the first time in 50 years there has been a federal quarantine.
The virus has killed more than 300 people in China so far. The first death from the virus outside China was also confirmed in the Philippines on Saturday.
In all, eight people in the U.S. have been diagnosed.