Returning from Spain, traveler says she wasn’t screened for coronavirus


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan airline passenger is raising a red flag about coronavirus prevention measures, saying she wasn’t screened while flying to the U.S. from Europe. 

Madonna Kramer said she was in Barcelona, Spain, with friends when President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions on passengers coming in from Europe. 

At the time of the announcement, there were thousands of cases of coronavirus in Spain and more than 100 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider the country a level 3 risk, meaning it recommends avoiding all nonessential travel there. The CDC also says any travelers who come to the U.S. from Spain should self-quarantine for at least two weeks. 

Kramer said despite the president later clarifying American citizens would be exempt from the travel restrictions, she and friends cut their trip short and went to the airport right away. 

“It was about 2 in the morning and all of us had family calling us to wake us up. Within 15 minutes, we decided we needed to be at the airport,” Kramer said.

She secured a flight to Amsterdam so she could get to Detroit.

“We were told when we got in to Detroit that there might be people sectioned off separately and I thought maybe I would be one of those because I came from a level 3 country, but then that did not happen and basically we just started walking off,” Kramer said, recalling her trip through Detroit Metro Airport. 

Kramer said she and the other passengers on her flight, which was full, were never questioned or screened. She also said the pilot and staff never announced what the passengers should be doing next. She said she made it through the customs checkpoint in about five minutes. 

Kramer continued on to Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. Again, she said, she was given no instructions about the next steps for international travelers. 

Ford Airport said in an email to News 8 that it is not a part of screening efforts because it doesn’t get any direct international flights. The airport has taken precautions to stop the spread of the virus, including adding extra sanitizing stations. It has also lifted some Transportation Security Administration restrictions and is allowing passengers to bring up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in their carry-on.

A representative for Detroit Metro, which gets directs from China, where the virus originated, said the CDC handles all screening at its facility. The airport says the CDC started screening for COVID-19 at the end of January and is screening for the virus currently. 

News 8 reached out to the CDC to get more information on the screening process and how they decide who gets screened. It had not replied as of Saturday night.

Kramer said she hopes the lack of screening and information she experienced doesn’t contribute to more cases in the U.S.

“The protocols are constantly changing and I think people need to have the right information, timely and everybody needs to stay vigilant about what’s going on,” said Kramer.

After getting advice from a doctor, Kramer decided to self-quarantine as a precaution. She said she is not showing symptoms and has not tested positive for the virus.

Spain has since announced a nationwide lockdown as it works to slow the spread of the virus.

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