It's quarantine time for the WuFlu

After expressing some serious reservations about how seriously our government is taking the rapid spread of the coronavirus, it finally seems as if officials are beginning to try to get out in front of this thing. The government has begun pulling our diplomats out of our consulate in Wuhan, with 240 of them flying out to California by way of Alaska. But they aren’t going to be facing just the normal screening questions. Los Angeles International Airport is setting up a quarantine area in its international terminal and taking a variety of sensible precautions. (Associated Press)

An airplane evacuating as many as 240 Americans from a Chinese city at the center of a virus outbreak has landed in the U.S.

The U.S. government chartered the plane to fly out diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, where the latest coronavirus outbreak started, and other U.S. citizens. The plane is making a refueling stop in Alaska, where it landed Tuesday night, before flying on to southern California.

But first, the travelers were to be re-screened in Anchorage for the virus, and hospitals were prepared to treat or quarantine people who may be infected. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, and in more severe cases shortness of breath or pneumonia.

The international terminal is largely closed during the winter so this isn’t causing too much of a disruption for regular domestic flights. And they have plenty of room to work with. Using a government-chartered flight was also a good call since you can keep close track of the crew and monitor conditions in the cabin more easily. And that’s what we should be doing for all Americans who have been in the affected areas.

Is that going to cost a lot of money? You bet it is. But we find money for all sorts of non-emergency projects on a regular basis, so if we have to drop a few million into chartered jets it’s not exactly going to break the bank. And if you compare that to the potential cost of thousands or millions of people coming down with the WuFlu it’s barely a drop in the bucket.

The problem is that we need to be moving faster. As the New York Post reported last night, there are still roughly 1,000 Americans in Wuhan. Unless they’re willing to simply stay put and take their chances, they should all be on charter flights heading for the west coast and remaining in quarantine until the full incubation period for the virus has passed.

One more solid idea has been put on the table by Senator Tom Cotton. Yesterday he called for a full travel ban to and from the affected areas. (Free Beacon)

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) on Tuesday called for a targeted travel ban on China to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus to the United States.

“I write to urge you to implement a targeted travel ban on China to protect America from the Wuhan coronavirus,” Cotton wrote. “Given the latest developments and the many unknowns about this virus, we ought to follow Benjamin Franklin’s maxim: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Cotton makes a lot of sense when he suggests to the Trump administration that we should judge the seriousness of this potential threat by China’s actions rather than their words. The Chinese have quarantined a staggering fifty million people. School has been canceled indefinitely and all travel from the mainland to Hong Kong has been shut down. As Cotton wrote, “These are not the actions of a government in control of the outbreak.”

If the WuFlu morphs into something closer to a worst-case scenario, nobody is going to regret taking every possible precaution. And even if it doesn’t, this is a good trial run for when something as seriously grave as Captain Trips breaks out. The CDC has a plan in place for handling pandemics, but it’s rather dated. I would appreciate seeing the Trump administration order a complete review of this plan and update it with detailed disaster prevention models, including funding for multiple charter flights and designated quarantine facilities near all major ports of entry.

To repeat Tom Cotton’s warning, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And if we fail to act in time, the cost will be measured in far more than just dollars and cents.