Torres Responds to Wuhan Flight Diversion Away from ONT

January 29, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35) responded today to news that a flight originating in coronavirus-inflicted Wuhan, China was diverted from its original destination of Ontario International Airport (ONT) to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside.


Torres, who led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in sending a letter yesterday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar demanding more information about the potential arrival at ONT, released the following statement:


“In a flurry of mixed messages, incomplete information, and extremely short notice, the federal government left residents across the Inland Empire alarmed that a plane carrying coronavirus was about to land in the heart of our community,” Rep. Torres said. “It is entirely predictable that news like this would raise concerns – it’s entirely inexcusable that the federal government did not properly prepare for this reaction, did not adequately notify officials, and did not inform the public in a timely way.


“Ontario International Airport is a designated repatriation center – the professionals there train for instances like this to welcome Americans who are in harm’s way abroad to back home to safety,” Rep. Torres continued. “It is clear from ONT’s response over the last few days that they were up for this challenge. I wish I could say the same for the Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services.


“You can’t announce a flight arriving with potential coronavirus patients without providing assurance to the public, or at bare minimum, some semblance of a plan for what happens next,” Torres added. “The Inland Empire is a logistics industry hub for the entire western portion of the United States – every package coming in through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the two largest container ports in the country – goes through our community. Directing this plane to land in the heart of all of this without a solid plan in place to coordinate across all levels of government shows a complete lack of foresight.


“All of this is to say, the lack of communication or planning around this flight raise serious questions that cannot be ignored. Coronavirus is far from behind us, and ONT is still a repatriation center. I’m glad that the plane has safely landed, but in the coming days, I will demand the answers my community deserves before we find ourselves in the exact same situation still without a plan in place.”


Rep. Torres’ letter to Secretaries Pompeo and Azar is available here.