CHICAGO (CBS) — International travelers were shoulder to shoulder for hours waiting to get through customs at O’Hare International Airport Saturday night while waiting for coronavirus screenings.
Airport officials have already asked to add more staffing to meet demand. Travelers at O’Hare waited to be screened by agents from Customs and Border Protection and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Airport staff and Chicago police even handed out snacks to people waiting in lines.
Some people had to wait in lines up to six hours. The airport released several tweets asking for patience from travelers.
Attention travelers: customs processing is taking longer than usual inside the Federal Inspection Services (FIS) facility owing to enhanced #COVID19 screening for passengers arriving from Europe. Thank you for your patience.
— O'Hare Intl. Airport (@fly2ohare) March 15, 2020
This comes after President Donald Trump announced a 30 day travel ban on European countries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
One woman who returned Saturday night after traveling all over Europe. Emma Reusch says she was recently in Portugal and had been to France and the Netherlands.
“It took three hours to get through customs. It took another two hours to get through the health check and then took another hour to get through the CDC. And all they do is they find someone to pair you with, scan your temperature real quick, ask how you feel and then send you on your way,” she said.
These crowds are waiting to get through customs which is under federal jurisdiction
— Governor JB Pritzker (@GovPritzker) March 15, 2020
Gov. JB Pritzker also called out the president Saturday night in a tweet. He wrote that the long lines and crowds are “unacceptable” and that this needs to be addressed immediately. Pritzker blamed the federal government, writing, “To the frustrated people trying to get home, I have spoken with the mayor and our Senators and we are working together to get the federal government to act to solve this.”
He added, “The federal government needs to get its s@#t together.”
This is unacceptable. The reactionary, poorly planned travel ban has left thousands of travelers at ORD forced into even greater health risk. @realdonaldtrump and @CBP: no one has time for your incompetence. Fully staff our airport right now, and stop putting Americans in danger. https://t.co/gswIaHwelx
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) March 15, 2020
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot also called the delays “unacceptable,” writing in a tweet, “The reactionary, poorly planned travel ban has left thousands of travelers at ORD forced into even greater health risk.”