ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) A flight carrying 201 American evacuees from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of a coronavirus outbreak that's infected nearly 6,000 people and claimed the lives of 132 — touched down at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport shortly before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, and departed shortly before 2:15 a.m. Wednesday.
Passengers aboard Kalitta flight #371 disembarked at the North Terminal for health screenings by the staff from the Centers for Disease Control and the Anchorage Health Department. Passengers were processed by U.S. Customs while the Boeing 747 refueled, before departing again for their final destination at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California.
Health Department officials say that if anyone was determined to be showing signs or symptoms of coronavirus, they weren't allowed to board the flight at all.
DHSS and TSAIA previously reported that 240 U.S. citizens were scheduled to fly from Wuhan to the U.S., but in a press release early Wednesday morning said that health screenings on the 201 passengers on board had been completed.
Alaska's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said that the airplane had a capacity for 240 and that the state was prepared for full capacity, but that only 201 passengers ended up departing on the flight from Wuhan.
"At the end of the day, 201 passengers loaded, and 201 passengers left Alaska," Zink said.
The passengers and crew were isolated from each other in separate parts of the cabin with separate airflows. Crew members never left the upper part of the plane while in China.
"We have been working closely with the CDC, and they felt like they were at zero risk," Zink said of the crew.
TSAIA Manager Jim Szczesniak said that the airport would coordinate the cleaning of the terminal with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention personnel.
Szczesniak says that TSAIA doesn't have another scheduled international flight until May 1 and that the terminal would be locked down until CDC personnel completed its decontamination process.
Plans were in place for all evacuees to be treated and quarantined depending on their test results.
Associated Press reported Tuesday that the death toll in mainland China in an outbreak of the novel coronavirus has risen to 132, with a total of 5,974 cases reported.
On Monday, Zink said that there are no known cases of coronavirus in Alaska and that by contrast, there were several thousand cases of influenza and one death in the state.
She said the best way to help prevent the flu, and potentially coronavirus, are basic hygiene practices.
“What we know about this virus is that it actually dies very quickly on surfaces,” Zink said. “So in about 2 hours, the virus dies.”