Israel mulls quarantine for travelers from NY, California and Washington

Minister Yariv Levin to Army Radio: Such a decision would only be made in conjunction with the United States due to "internal implications."

The backdrop of the stage at last year’s AIPAC conference in Washington, DC (photo credit: REUTERS)
The backdrop of the stage at last year’s AIPAC conference in Washington, DC
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Health Ministry is considering adding the American states of Washington, New York and California to the list of places requiring their visitors now in Israel to do 14 days of home-quarantine.
 
In an interview with Channel 12, Health Ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said the ministry was making decisions regarding the United States not as one country but on a state-by-state basis.
 
As such, he said that as of Saturday night, the only states from which travelers might require quarantine are Washington, New York and California. Other states could be added to the list in the future.
 
He told Channel 12 that a final decision would be made late by early Sunday.
But on Sunday morning, it appeared that a decision was made - despite no official notice from the Health Ministry.
Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin said that Israel is reconsidering putting all travelers who come to Israel from the United States into quarantine. He told Army Radio that, "such a decision has internal significance in the US . It's important to work on this issue in collaboration with the Americans."
 
Other Western nations – including Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands – are also being considered for quarantine. The ministry is waiting to receive news about the coronavirus situation in all of these countries before making a decision, which Bar Siman Tov said would be done in close cooperation with the National Security Council.
 
At the same time, all Israelis who attended the AIPAC Policy Conference last week in Washington and returned to the country after March 5 must immediately enter home-quarantine, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
The decision came after at least two New Yorkers who attended conference, held February 28 to March 2, tested positive for the coronavirus, the pro-Israel lobby confirmed on Friday.
Overnight, NBC Los Angeles reported that a third AIPAC attendee was diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in LA County to 14.
"The additional positive case is a resident who recently returned from attending the AIPAC Conference in Washington, D.C. where there was a known exposure to a person who was positive for COVID-19, officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said," NBC reported.
 
A spokesperson for AIPAC said he did not know how many Israelis took part in the 18,000-person conference, which was attended by a few world leaders, dozens of members of Congress and high-profile administration officials. Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote speaker.
 
According to the AIPAC website, prominent Israeli participants included former ambassadors to the United States Danny Ayalon and Itamar Rabinovich and head of the opposition in the Jerusalem Municipality Ofer Berkovitch.
 
In contrast to the Health Ministry, the capital’s Department of Health issued a statement Friday saying that, based on its investigation in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDH), “There is no identified risk to conference attendees at this time. All attendees and members of the public are urged to follow the well-established prevention tips, like staying home if sick and calling ahead to a health provider if experiencing symptoms. We will work with AIPAC leadership to keep all attendees informed of any new developments.”
 
AIPAC also released a statement on Friday, saying the organization is in constant communication with the Westchester County Health Department and the DC Health Department, which is coordinating with the New York Health Department as well as with national health authorities.
 
“We have consulted with a top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Edward Septimus – adjunct professor of Internal Medicine at Texas A&M College of Medicine,” AIPAC said in a statement.
 
The pro-Israel organization called on all conference participants to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and consult with their health care providers if they feel ill or have medical questions. “If you test positive for coronavirus, we urge you to inform your local health authorities, so they can properly coordinate their response to this situation with the appropriate health authorities,” AIPAC added.
 
Pence, who is the Trump administration point man in charge of coronavirus response, was asked during a press conference on Friday about the fact that two attendees tested positive for the virus, and whether he is concerned the virus is now in Washington.
“It’s the first I heard of it amidst a busy day – and we will be engaged, I am confident, with the same contact tracing like with any case,” Pence said.
But the vice president did note that thousands of Americans are currently in isolation and cautioned those who are elderly or suffer from health conditions such as heart disease or respiratory issues should “use common sense” and refrain from taking part in activities or outings that could put them at risk.
 
This is the second instance of coronavirus being reported in the Washington area. Nearby Maryland declared a state of emergency last week after three patients tested positive for coronavirus in Montgomery County, which borders the district. At the same time, the virus surfaced in at least four more states over the weekend and the number of cases in San Francisco continues to increase.
 
Among the 2,400 passengers stranded off the California coast on a cruise ship, there are at least 21 infected people, Reuters reported.
 
As of Saturday night, New York was reporting 76 cases of coronavirus, many of them in the close-knit Modern Orthodox Jewish community of Westchester County north of Manhattan. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency to deal with the worsening coronavirus crisis.


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