A plane evacuating 201 Americans from a Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak continued on to Southern California, on Wednesday, after everyone aboard passed a health screening test in Anchorage, where the aircraft had stopped to refuel.
All the passengers had already been through two screenings in China and were screened twice more in Anchorage by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One passenger received medical attention for a minor injury that happened before boarding the airplane in China, Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, told an early morning news conference after the plane left.
The US government chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the US Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other Americans. The plane landed Tuesday night in Anchorage. The Americans will undergo additional health screenings in California and will be temporarily housed there for a period of time as they finish the repatriation process, officials said.
“For many of us directly involved in this, it’s become a moving and uplifting experience. The whole plane erupted into cheers when the crew welcomed them back to the United States,” Zink said.
“This is the best possible outcome,” state health commissioner Adam Crum said in a release.
“We wish these passengers the best of luck as they complete their journeys home and I am deeply grateful to everyone who came together to assist us in helping with this repatriation effort.”
The state had initially said the plane could carry up to 240 passengers, and Zink said they were prepared for that number. “At the end of the day, 201 passengers loaded and 201 passengers left Alaska,” she said.
The flight crew remained on the upper level of the plane, entirely isolated from the passengers for the entirety of the flight and did not get off the plane in China, putting them at low risk, she said.
The plane is now scheduled to land at March Air Reserve Base in California’s Riverside County, instead of the original plan to go to Ontario International Airport in neighboring San Bernardino County.