After stories Sunday of extremely long lines at a number of U.S. airports as international travelers waited for special Customs screenings, Customs at SFO was apparently business as usual today.
A friend of SFist reported sailing through U.S. Customs on Sunday afternoon at San Francisco International Airport after flying in from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico — the whole process reportedly took 10 minutes after using the Mobile Passport app. Those who didn't have the app were apparently facing waits of only 45 minutes to an hour — and it's not clear if passengers from any particular place were being screening any more stringently, though no one's temperature appears to have been taken.
This may reflect the U.S. government's shifting position, acknowledging that the containment phase is largely over.
The Chronicle reports that passengers arriving from Paris at SFO on Sunday were simply given a questionnaire that asked if they had a fever, and were told to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days. SFO officials deferred all questions to the Centers for Disease Control.
This ran entirely counter to a New York Times story published Sunday that reported waits running up to seven hours at U.S. Customs at some American airports, including O’Hare in Chicago. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was apparently doing screenings that included temperatures taken using a device applied to the forehead, and that included for randomly selected passengers arriving from France, but not all passengers.
Per the Chronicle, international travelers were simply being handed cards at SFO that told them to self-quarantine, and explaining what to do in the event that they experienced symptoms.
It may be that media reports of the chaos at airports on Saturday led to an immediate change in policy and process. "It is critically important that before you announce that you are going to ramp up that type of screening, that you develop a plan and work out all the operational details, says John Cohen, a former Obama era official at the Department of Homeland Security, speaking the Times. He also added that more passengers may have been put at risk due to the chaos. "People who were awaiting medical screening shouldn’t have been in the same area as people awaiting passport screening," he said.
Photo: Duke Cullinan