Previously Scheduled Diplomatic Flight From Wuhan, China No Longer Landing at SFO

San Francisco Mayor London Breed speaks to reporters on Monday about the city's preparedness in case of an outbreak of the coronavirus. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

No flights are currently scheduled to arrive in San Francisco from Wuhan, China — the origin of the deadly coronavirus — despite previously announced plans by the U.S. government to transport American citizens and diplomats there to San Francisco International Airport this week, Mayor London Breed said on Monday.

"I know that there have been a number of rumors coming out of a flight coming to San Francisco with diplomats from China," Breed said at a press conference addressing the city's preparedness for an outbreak. "And our latest understanding is that there are no incoming flights that we have been made aware of."

That flight, of 201 Americans, is now scheduled to go through Anchorage, Alaska, before landing at March Air Reserve Base, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, on Wednesday (rather than in Ontario, California, where it had previously been scheduled to arrive).

The trip will include three health checks at each stage of the flight, according to San Francisco health officials.

"This issue is rapidly evolving and changing. It's important to recognize that there are no confirmed cases in San Francisco at this time," said Tomás Aragón, the city's public health officer, at Monday's briefing. He noted, however, that officials "are actively preparing for the possibility of confirmed cases."

Additionally, all commercial flights between San Francisco and Wuhan will remain canceled this week, although officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will still be at the airport in the coming days, according to SFO spokesman Doug Yakel.

There have been five confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., including two Southern California cases confirmed on Sunday — in Los Angeles and Orange counties. All five infected people had recently traveled to Wuhan.

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By Monday evening, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus had risen to nearly 3,000, including 81 deaths. Some patients in Wuhan were linked to Wuhan South China Seafood City, a market that has been identified as a possible source for the current outbreak, but cases have continued to be identified since the market's closure on Jan. 1. According to a CDC alert, this indicates that "some person-to-person spread is occurring, though it’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people."

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Symptoms of the illness include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. But health officials clarified on Monday that simply exhibiting those symptoms doesn't necessarily mean someone is infected with this specific strain of coronavirus.

"We won't be able to tell just from the symptoms," Aragón said. "That's why the history of where that person has been is the most important factor."

There is no vaccine to protect against coronavirus. Other strains of the virus are known to spread through human contact, and the CDC recommends frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Aragón noted that residents in the Bay Area are at low-risk of contracting the coronavirus unless they have recently traveled to Wuhan or come into contact with someone who is a confirmed case.

"It's not too late to get the flu shot and to help prevent illness and symptoms similar to the novel coronavirus," he said.

The CDC said that although the virus is a serious public health threat, the immediate health risk to the U.S. general public is still considered low, based on current information.

KQED's Lesley McClurg contributed to this report.

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