Coronavirus scare prompts CBP to conduct ‘enhanced screenings’ of Chinese migrants at ports


Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 22, 2020. – A new virus that has killed nine people, infected hundreds and has already reached the US could mutate and spread, China warned on January 22, as authorities urged people to steer clear of Wuhan, the city at the heart of the outbreak.(Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — The spread of the coronavirus had prompted U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to conduct “enhanced screenings” of Chinese immigrants entering through U.S. ports of entry, a South Texas congressman said ahead of a meeting with officials on the issue.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose district spans from Laredo to Mission, plans to ask for more precautions at South Texas border crossings

He said Wednesday that he and several congressional leaders will have a bipartisan briefing on the spreading coronavirus situation this afternoon in Washington, D.C. The meeting will include Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control, as well as leaders of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So far there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus on the South Texas border, health officials have told Border Report. But worldwide there are a reported 6,000 confirmed cases and over 132 deaths, The New York Times reports.

Read a Border Report story on how South Texas officials are monitoring the coronavirus.

Cuellar said that 20 ports of entry have been predetermined for special enhanced screening as precautionary measures against the deadly virus. Some of those ports include the busiest airports like Chicago O’Hare International, Los Angeles International, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and San Francisco International Airport. But he wants ports in South Texas specifically added to the list.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar speaks in South Texas in November 2019. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

“On the border, CBP has been taking certain steps because on the border there are Chinese immigrants that come in, not only Central Americans and Mexicans. We get people from all over the world,” Cuellar said during a phone call with media Wednesday morning . “We have people that are trying to come into the southern border from China.”

He said that he will request special personal protective equipment (PPE) be given to CBP officers at the South Texas border ports, to help prevent the transmission of the disease as they screen incoming visitors.

We need “to make sure that we have protective measures for our men and women who are there,” Cuellar said.

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