This weekend, major airports across the state and country began to close their gates to travelers flying home from Europe, forcing people to wait in densely packed terminals and winding customs lines — in direct contrast with the CDC’s prescription for “social distancing.”
The sweeping changes began when the Department of Homeland Security notified the public late Friday that all U.S. travelers flying from 26 European countries were to have their flights rerouted through 13 of the largest and busiest airport terminals in the country.
Included among them was Texas’ own Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
At the airport, health authorities were designated to conduct additional health screenings for international travelers to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19.
The Department of Homeland Security released a related statement to the public.
“Upon arrival, travelers will proceed to standard customs processing. They will then continue to enhanced entry screening, where the passenger will be asked about their medical history, current condition, and asked for contact information for local health authorities. Passengers will then be given written guidance about COVID-19 and directed to proceed to their final destination, and immediately home-quarantine in accordance with CDC best practices.”
However, in practice, insufficient staffing and preparedness led to hours-long wait times, which caused several travelers to express concern over being held with hundreds of other people in close proximity.
By Sunday, lines abated, and a spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mark Morgan, acknowledged the issues and addressed the agency’s efforts to minimize future inconveniences.
“CBP recognizes that the wait times experienced yesterday at some locations were unacceptable. As we work collaboratively with federal, state, and local agencies to address the spread of COVID-19, some of the resources of our partners are stretched thin,” he said. “CBP continually adjusts its resources, in real time, as needed and we will continue to do so.”