Background


COVID-19 is the most recent infectious agent that represents the seventh strain of the coronavirus. Its symptoms include fever, body aches, cough, trouble breathing, sore throat, vomiting, and diarrhea. Many people have been infected with a form of common human coronavirus without realizing it, resulting in mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses similar to the common cold, but other coronavirus strains, including 2019-nCoV, can be deadly. 

On January 22, ALPA Air Safety Organization Pilot Assistance leaders and ALPA Engineering and Air Safety Department representatives participated in a government-industry conference call (sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration) aimed at sharing the latest information about the outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), severe illness from the virus has affected thousands of individuals in China and dozens of individuals in other countries. The agency has identified 11 individuals with the virus so far in the United States, none of which have proven fatal to date (February 4, 2020). The outbreak has resulted in about 425 fatalities, nearly all of which have occurred in China involving mostly older persons and those with diabetes or other diseases. 

On January 27, U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents expanded monitoring for the illness to 20 U.S. airports. At the time, HHS determined that the risk to anyone in the United States is low; however, the situation is evolving, and the ultimate outcome of the crisis is still unknown. The State Department raised the Hubei province to a Level 4 travel notice-meaning Americans are not to travel to the Hubei province. To reduce the risk of contracting the illness, CDC issued a Level 3 travel notice, Avoid Nonessential Travel to China. 

Canadian officials are tracking the situation, providing advice for travelers and making arrangements for repatriating Canadians from China. 

Following a teleconference of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on January 30, WHO declared the outbreak to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, stating that it is expected that cases may appear in any country. Following WHO's announcement, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 travel notice: "Do Not Travel" to China.

The White House on January 31 declared a public health emergency concerning the outbreak and a temporary ban on entry of foreign nationals who have been in China within the last 14 days. American citizens returning from China may be quarantined for up to 14 days. As of February 2, all flights from China to the United States are required to land at 11 airports with enhanced screening. The White House said that the risk to U.S. citizens is still low, and they want to maintain that status with these provisions. Later that same day, the White House suspended entry into the United States "as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the People’s Republic of China, excluding the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry."

On February 2, the FAA issued interim health guidance for air carriers and flight crews.

On February 6, ALPA Air Safety Organization Aeromedical chair F/O Ellen Brinks (DAL) briefed dozens of ALPA MEC, Aeromedical, and Safety chairs on the latest developments related to the coronavirus outbreak. Meeting notes are provided in the section "Air Safety Organization Coronavirus Updates" above.