As weary travelers returned to the US amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the AP reports that they were greeted with packed, hourslong waits for required medical screenings at airports. Posts on social media indicated passengers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport waited upward of four hours in lines, eliciting criticism from Illinois officials. NBC reports that Ill. Gov. JB Pritzker colorfully tweeted at President Trump and VP Mike Pence, "since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to," noting that the customs process is under federal jurisdiction and telling the federal government "to get its s@#t together. NOW." His concerns were echoed by Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. “This is unacceptable, counterproductive and exactly the opposite of what we need to do to prevent #COVID19," Duckworth tweeted. “The Trump Administration must send more support to O'Hare immediately.”
While US citizens, green card holders, and some others are allowed to return home, travelers from Europe are being funneled to one of 13 US airports where they're subject to health screenings and quarantine orders. Acknowledging the long lines at those airports in tweets just after midnight, the Department of Homeland Security's acting secretary said the screenings take about a minute per passenger. “Right now we are working to add additional screening capacity and working with the airlines to expedite the process,” Chad Wolf tweeted. The dense crowds at the nation's busiest airports formed even as public health officials call for “social distancing.” Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where some waits stretched to three hours, said its customer experience team was taking “extra precautions” and that hand sanitizer was available in all terminals. Meanwhile, O'Hare and Chicago police offered queuers bottled water and snacks.
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