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Secretary Azar Delivers Remarks on Declaration of Public Health Emergency for 2019 Novel Coronavirus

Alex M. Azar II
Press
January 31, 2020
White House

These prudent and targeted actions will decrease the pressure on public health officials screening incoming travelers, expedite the processing of U.S. citizens returning from China, and ensure resources are focused on the health and safety of the American people

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, I am Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Chairman of the President’s task force on the novel coronavirus.

I will start by turning it over to Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to discuss the current situation on the novel coronavirus.

[Redfield briefs]

I now invite Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to discuss the underlying rationale for today’s actions. [Fauci briefs]

Today, President Trump took decisive action to minimize the risk of the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Since taking office, President Trump has been clear: His top priority is the safety of the American people.

In addition to the steps that the doctors have outlined, we continue to operationalize a multi-layered, cross-agency public health response.

Following the World Health Organization’s decision to declare the 2019 novel coronavirus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, I have declared today that the coronavirus presents a Public Health Emergency in the United States.

[Read Secretary Azar’s statement on the Public Health Emergency]

The actions we have taken and continue to take complement the work of China and the WHO to contain the outbreak within China.

In accordance with the declaration, beginning 5 PM Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, February 2, the U.S. government will implement temporary measures to increase our abilities to detect and contain the coronavirus proactively and aggressively.

Any U.S. citizen returning to the U.S. who has been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine, to ensure they’re provided proper medical care and health screening. To be clear, this applies only to U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei Province in the past 14 days.

Any U.S. citizen returning to the U.S. who has been in the rest of mainland China within the previous 14 days will undergo proactive entry health screening at a select number of ports of entry and up to 14 days of monitored self-quarantine to ensure they have not contracted the virus and do not pose a public health risk.

Additionally, the President has signed a Presidential Proclamation, using his authority pursuant to Section 212(f) of the Immigration and National Act, temporarily suspending the entry into the United States of foreign nationals who pose a risk of transmitting the 2019 novel coronavirus.

As a result, foreign nationals, other than immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, who have traveled to China within the last 14 days will be denied entry into the U.S. for this time. Once again, these actions will become effective at 5 PM EST, Sunday, February 2.

These prudent and targeted actions will decrease the pressure on public health officials screening incoming travelers, expedite the processing of U.S. citizens returning from China, and ensure resources are focused on the health and safety of the American people.

I want to stress: The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and with these and our previous actions, we are working to keep the risk low.

All agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed.

The United States appreciates China’s efforts and coordination with public health officials across the globe and continues to encourage the highest levels of transparency.

It is likely that we will continue to see more cases in the United States in the coming days and weeks, including some limited person-to-person transmission.

The American public can be assured: The full weight of the U.S. government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people.

I now invite Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun for an update.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on February 1, 2020