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Thousands stuck in hours-long customs lines as travelers return home from Europe

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Posted at 12:44 AM, Mar 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-15 07:53:05-04

Videos shared on social media show hundreds of people waiting hours in line at customs checkpoints as thousands of Americans return from Europe hours after the coronavirus travel ban instituted by the Trump administration went into effect.

All travelers returning from Europe during the 30-day travel ban are required to arrive at one of 13 airports. The CDC then screens all passengers for the virus at customs checkpoints.

The influx of passengers combined with screenings has led to hours-long lines at customs and baggage claims at the 13 arrival hubs.

Chicago's O'Hare Airport confirmed that customs lines were taking "longer than usual."

The long lines prompted outrage from local politicians.

"The crowds & lines O'Hare are unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately. @realDonaldTrump @VP since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to—you need to do something NOW. These crowds are waiting to get through customs which is under federal jurisdiction," Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker tweeted. "The federal government needs to get its s@ #t together. NOW."

Some passengers noted that they were worried that the large crowds left them susceptible to contracting the virus at a time when the CDC is practicing social distancing.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump said during a primetime address from the Oval Office that he was instituting a 30-day travel ban to all European nations, excluding the United Kingdom and Ireland. That ban went into effect on Friday at midnight.

All American citizens were permitted to return to the United States during the ban. However, passengers returning from Europe are subject to health screenings. Anyone found to be exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus will then be asked to self-quarantine at home.

On Saturday, the Trump administration said that it would expand the travel ban to include the United Kingdom and Ireland beginning Monday at midnight

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.