OAKLAND, Calif. - The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said it plans to evacuate a “limited capacity” of staff and an unknown number of private citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan — the epicenter of the growing coronavirus outbreak.
The flight will leave Wednesday from the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport and expected to arrive in Ontario, California, according to the U.S. State Department.
Initially the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement on Sunday that the flight was headed to San Francisco International Airport. On Monday San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the flight was not headed to SFO.
All travelers will be screened for symptoms in Wuhan prior to departure. The deadly disease has killed 81 people and sickened nearly 3,000 worldwide.
In the United States, five people — two in Southern California and one each in Arizona, Washington state and Illinois — have been diagnosed with the respiratory virus. There have been no confirmed cases in the Bay Area.
“This capacity is extremely limited and if there is insufficient ability to transport everyone who expresses interest, priority will be given to individuals at greater risk from coronavirus,” the embassy posted on its website.
U.S. authorities believe that roughly 1,000 American citizens live in and around Wuhan, a sprawl of 11 million people with a manufacturing-based economy that includes a number of major American companies. Such an evacuation from China is unusual but reflects growing international alarm at the fast-spreading virus that first appeared in Wuhan late last year, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The U.S. government also agreed to having medical workers aboard the plane to ensure that the evacuation effort doesn’t inadvertently further spread the virus and to accept responsibility for the risk of moving people who may be sick or carrying the disease, the Journal reported.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been screening airplane travelers arriving from Wuhan at five international airports in the United States: San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago’s O’Hare and New York’s John F. Kennedy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.