CHICAGO — The travel ban in the United States caused massive lines Saturday at O’Hare airport.
Multiple passengers flying back internationally have shared photos with WGN showing massive crowds of people waiting to be screened through U.S. customs.
The European travel ban went into effect at midnight on Friday. On Saturday, the first day of enhanced screening caused long lines for passengers flying in from Europe. O’Hare is one of 13 airports being used to screen passengers from Europe.
Passengers told WGN they were in line for almost four hours. People who got off flights had to wait for enhanced screening which including getting their temperatures taken, being asked where they flew from and more.
Passengers and family are concerned that waiting in the large crowds has exposed them to COVID-19.
“This thought crossed my mind that him being in that crowd might increase the chance of contamination,” mother Elena Gabor said.
President Trump announced Saturday that the United States will broaden its European travel ban, adding the United Kingdom and Ireland to its list, and was considering imposing restrictions on travel within the U.S. to areas hit hard by the COVID-19 spread.
Under the restrictions on European travel, American citizens, green card holders and others are still allowed to return home to the U.S., but will be funneled to 13 airports and be subjected to health screenings and quarantine orders.
After witnessing the lines at O’Hare, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker scolded the Trump administration on social media.
There are now 66 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state after an additional 20 were announced on Saturday.
On Sunday, Mayor Lightfoot provided an update at O’Hare and placed blame on the federal government for the long lines.
“We need the federal government to be here and to listen,” the mayor said. “We got to step up the amount of staffing at airports like O’Hare.”
To help alleviate long lines Sunday as even more flights are scheduled to arrive, Mayor Lightfoot said the Department of Homeland Security signed off on allowing Chicago EMTs to take passenger’s temperature. At this time, the mayor said DHS still has to waive the training requirements needed.
Additionally, the mayor said passengers may stay on planes until they are ready to go through screening. There, they will have access to bathrooms, water and food.
She urged Vice President Pence and his crisis response team to talk with local governments before implementing another potential directive.
“It’s critically important that before another one of these directives that they got to talk to us here on the ground,” Lightfoot said.