The Tulare farm show now appears to be out of reach for attendees from China this year, following new travel restrictions imposed Friday by U.S. officials.
The order, signed by President Donald Trump, bars entry into the U.S. by foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the last 14 days. It comes as U.S. health officials declared a public health emergency and took drastic steps to significantly restrict entry into the country because of a new virus that hit China and has spread to other nations.
Exemptions apply only to the immediate family of U.S. citizens or permanent residents, though those individuals will be subject to screening and additional monitoring under the order, which takes effect Sunday at 5 p.m. It was announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Through Friday, the World Ag Expo had sold tickets to 18 customers with addresses in China, said marketing manager Jennifer Fawkes. The show attracts an average of 100,000 attendees from over 70 countries each year, organizers say.
Farm Show Organizers Coordinating with Health Officials
Fawkes says the purchase of tickets does not provide customers with any special travel status and organizers are working with officials at all levels to address potential health concerns.
“We have shared all travel information for folks from China with the health department, who then shares that with the FBI or Homeland Security,” Fawkes said. “That way, they can flag who they need to flag. And that is appropriate and fine by us based on health needs,” she said.
In addition to attendees, Fawkes said seven vendors registered for booths at the show using addresses based in China. She said the show will work out arrangements with any vendors that are unable to participate due to the new travel restrictions.
“Our primary concern is that folks at the show are safe and healthy,” she said. “So, if this year, China is not able to participate because of this particular event, that’s the way it’s going to be and that is appropriate.“
Farm show staff is consulting regularly with local health officials as the event approaches. “We had the Tulare County health department here yesterday morning,” Fawkes said. “We did a tour of the grounds to determine where additional signage and handwashing and hand-sanitizing stations will go. We’ll update our plan as needed.”
She urged anyone with questions about the new strain of coronavirus to visit the Tulare County Health and Human Services website for the latest information.
U.S. Airlines Suspending China Flights
The entry ban announcement came hours after the State Department issued a level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory, the highest grade of warning.
Hours later, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced they were suspending all flights between the U.S. and China. They joined several international carriers that have stopped flying to China as the virus outbreak spreads.
American Airlines said it was halting all flights starting Friday and running through March 27. Delta plans to wait until Feb. 6 to suspend China operations to help travelers in China leave the country. It said the stoppage will continue through April 30. United Airlines announced that it will suspend flights to Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu but continue flights to Hong Kong.
Over 14,000 Confirmed Cases
The virus has now infected nearly 14,500 people in China since it began about 2 months ago. The rapid spread has prompted the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a global emergency. As of Sunday, the death toll in China has risen to 300.
WHO says approximately 130 cases of the virus have been confirmed in more than 20 countries outside China and Taiwan. The first death attributable to the virus outside China has been reported in the Philippines.
Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been updated