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Rep. Chu Joins Bipartisan Letter Demanding Answers About Flight from Wuhan, China to Ontario Airport

January 28, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today, Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers who represent communities across the Inland Empire in sending a letter, led by Representative Norma Torres (CA-35), to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar demanding answers about a flight reportedly arriving at Ontario International Airport (ONT) with 230 passengers from Wuhan, China on board.

The letter, which is also signed by Representatives Ken Calvert (CA-42), Gilbert Cisneros (CA-39), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Mark Takano (CA-41) and Paul Cook (CA-08), emphasizes the need for proper response systems in place to protect local residents given the serious health threats posed by coronavirus in the Wuhan region.

The lawmakers wrote, in part:

ONT is an official repatriation center, a designated place for Americans abroad to come home to safety, for the West Coast. We welcome news that this flight is bringing American diplomats and citizens out of harm’s way, and we have full confidence in our local medical personnel and ONT staff to rise to this situation.

For this repatriation process to be successful, the federal government must provide ONT and San Bernardino County with all necessary support. We must ensure all public safety concerns for our community are addressed and regular operations at ONT are not impacted.

“Addressing a health threat like the coronavirus requires caution and communication, and we are urging the government for both,” Rep. Chu said. “The evacuation of Americans in Wuhan is a relief. But we must ensure they are being given the appropriate screenings and treatments before full repatriation. Many of our constituents are understandably concerned about the contagion risk and so open communication from our government about the virus, how we are treating it, and how Americans can keep themselves safe is vital – especially in instances like this which are so ripe for spreading misinformation or fear. And so we must know how the government prepares to reassure the public and ease their concerns. The 230 passengers and their families also deserve full knowledge of their risks and what possible quarantine procedures lay ahead. We hope the government’s answers to these questions will help provide much needed confidence.”

“Ontario International Airport is an official repatriation center for Americans in harm’s way abroad, and I have full confidence in their staff and the medical professionals in our community to meet this challenge head-on,” Rep. Torres said. “But ONT is also a pivotal part of the Inland Empire’s economy, and I expect the federal government to provide adequate support to ensure the safety of our community and the passengers of this plane. My community is ready to welcome these Americans home, but we deserve answers from the federal government to reassure us that the proper plans are in place.”

“With any health care emergency, it is critical to provide the public with clear and complete information,” Rep. Calvert said. “That’s why I join my colleagues in urging the State Department and Department of Health and Human Services to share more information about the procedures and passengers arriving at Ontario Airport from China. It is also imperative that we have all the information we need to make the decisions necessary to keep our communities safe.”

“As we continue learning more about the Coronavirus and where this disease is spreading, the health and safety of all members of our community must be made a priority,” Rep. Takano said. “It is critical for the federal government to support the people on the ground at the Ontario International Airport and to help us give our constituents peace of mind. We need more information from the State Department and HHS to ensure that proper protocols are in place and that resources are available, if needed, prior to this flight arriving from China.” 

"As a State Department charter flight arrives in Ontario tomorrow morning, we need more information from the Administration, CDC, HHS, and State Department about what systems are in place to maintain the safety and well-being of our constituents and everyone on the plane,” Rep. Cisneros said. “This is a serious health issue that requires thorough communication and comprehensive planning. Public safety is our number one priority, and I expect the Administration to fully brief Congress and be transparent with our constituents.”

The full text of the letter is available here.