White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the decision to pause flights was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “out of an abundance of caution given four measles cases.” The individuals who tested positive are being quarantined and a full contact tracing is underway, Psaki said.
A senior Department of Homeland Security official and two U.S. officials said that the measles cases were found among evacuees landing at Dulles International Airport. The U.S. officials said that at least one inter-agency deputy committee meeting was held this morning on the best way to proceed following the outbreak.
Some have expressed concern on interagency calls that the pause could create a choke point in the evacuation process, according to the senior DHS and one U.S. official.
Evacuees are being screened at U.S. bases abroad before flying to the U.S., but many of the host countries allow evacuees to stay in their country for only a limited number of days. The current agreement between the U.S. and German governments, for example, allows evacuees to stay at Ramstein Air Base for up to 10 days.
All Afghans arriving in the U.S. are required to be vaccinated for measles. Psaki said that the administration was exploring ways to vaccinate people while they are still overseas and that vaccines are already being offered to Afghans at military bases in the U.S.
It is unclear when the first case of measles was discovered. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his traveling party visited the Afghanistan evacuee transit center at Ramstein Air base earlier this week.
Courtney Kube contributed.