Not everyone returning from an international flight during the coronavirus pandemic goes through health screening before being allowed to leave the airport.
On Friday, Thrifty Traveler reported hearing from "nearly a dozen" travelers who had just returned from international travel who said they weren't screened upon return to the U.S., including "at least two examples" at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, although it's not clear where those specific MSP travelers were coming from.
Jess Myers, a hockey writer in Minnesota, tweeted Friday that a friend of his who worked in Europe for a week returned to no screening and then began "feeling like they have a cold today, with some shortness of breath."
Another traveler who went from Spain to Toronto and then to MSP Airport said someone called for a doctor on the first leg of the trip, and when he got to MSP Airport he did not go through a screening despite spending seven days in Spain, which saw its number of confirmed coronavirus cases jump by 1,500 in one day and is second in Europe only to Italy in total cases.
Controlling the health screenings is U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which explained the process to BMTN.
"CBP employees are encouraged to maintain situational awareness while processing individuals who have traveled from or transited through affected countries. If individuals are observed with symptoms of COVID-19 we will continue to work with the CDC to determine if a traveler is a possible public health risk by referring them for enhanced screening," a CBP spokesperson said.
The situational awareness includes CBP officers looking at travel history, questioning and observation, and "self-declarations for every passenger to identify individuals requiring additional health screening."
The reason the examples listed above weren't automatically screened?
The mandatory screening for travelers returning from the Schengen Area – 26 European states – didn't begin until today (March 14). So, starting now, anyone returning to America from the Schengen Area will be referred to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) for enhanced health screening.
The Schengen Area includes: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland
The CBP had already been referring travelers from China or Iran to the CDC.
It is not clear if passengers referred to the CDC will be given a COVID-19 test. According to ABC News, at least 63,000 travelers from Iran and China have been referred to the CDC for enhanced health screening.
Travelers returning from from anywhere other than the Schengen Area, China or Iran won't experience many changes upon return to America.