RICHMOND – In a press call Friday morning, Governor Ralph Northam provided an update on the evacuation mission from Afghanistan and the COVID-19 protocols within the process.
Of the roughly 14,000 Americans and Afghan refugees that have arrived in the United States through Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, less than 20 of those people have tested positive for COVID-19. “Since the mission began 11 days ago, less than 20 people have tested positive and those individuals are being quarantined,” Northam said Friday morning.
“That is much better than our statewide numbers,” he continued. “If people are saying this mission is bringing COVID to the United States, it just simply is not true.”
Northam said that there are no direct flights from Afghanistan to the United States. The people who have been arriving here have come from Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Germany, Spain, and Bulgaria. He expects that list to expand in the future.
Dulles has been the lone entry point for these people to arrive so far. Northam said that Philadelphia is expected to begin accepting U.S. citizens and refugees soon.
Once evacuees arrive in the United States and they do not have proof of a negative test during the previous 72 hours, they are immediately tested for COVID-19.
Less than 20 positive patients are quarantining according to Northam.
When U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents arrive and take a COVID-19 test, they will then be able to continue to their destination. There are resources at the airport for U.S. citizens when they arrive and need assistance.
Non-U.S. citizens are taken to a nearby Expo Center to complete the vetting and immigration process. Northam says the process for these refugees could already be days or weeks in progress.
Once that process is complete, the refugees are transferred by military buses and planes to military locations for lodging.
Fort Lee in Central Virginia has been a primary location for refugees to be placed so far, but the Department of Defense also recently approved the opening of Fort Pickett and Quantico for refugee placement.
Fort Pickett has a current capacity of 3,800, but can be scaled up to 5,000 or 10,000 if needed. The first refugees will be arriving there on Saturday. Quantico’s current capacity is 1,000 and can be scaled up to 5,000 if needed with refugees expected to arrive Sunday.
According to Northam, there were only a handful of people at Fort Lee when his wife, Pam Northam, visited the base recently. He said that the average amount of time refugees are spending at the base is five days before a place to stay within communities across the country is located.
The Governor touted the work of several state and federal agencies calling it “highly efficient and respectful of people.”
Additionally, Virginia has set up mass vaccination sites at the receiving locations for both U.S. and non-U.S. citizens.
Northam said five more flights are expected to arrive Friday. “This is one of the largest airlifts in history and Virginia has a very important and critical role.”
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