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Inmate under observation for possible coronavirus to be driven to Pennsylvania

A Brooklyn man deemed at "medium risk" for the coronavirus after he was taken into custody at the Peace Bridge Wednesday on a warrant out of Pennsylvania was expected to be driven to Chester County, Pa., as soon as possible.

The man, identified as Kevin Qiu, 42, of Brooklyn, was attempting to enter after returning from a trip to China, Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard said in a statement. He was brought to the Erie County Holding Center about 4 a.m. Thursday and had been "under medical observation for novel coronavirus," Howard said. He is not exhibiting any symptoms of the virus.

Qiu, wearing a white mask that covered his nose and mouth along with orange prison garments, appeared Thursday afternoon before Supreme Court Justice Russell Buscaglia.

Buscaglia said the health officials had cleared Qiu to make his court appearance.

A court officer wore latex gloves to transfer documents, which had to be signed, between attorneys and the judge. The case was taken first on the judge’s afternoon docket, and some documents were signed in advance in order to expedite the appearance.

Qiu, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was wanted on a warrant for receiving stolen property and other charges in a case in Pennsylvania. He waived his right to an extradition hearing and Erie County sheriff's deputies were preparing to drive him to Pennsylvania.

Here's what is known:

• Qiu is considered "medium risk" for the coronavirus.

• He is not showing any symptoms.

• He is not believed to have been to Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic that has killed thousands in China.

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Qiu had recently traveled to Fuzhou, then flew to Beijing. From there he flew to Toronto, before going to the Peace Bridge.

Buscaglia asked Qiu how far Fuzhou was from Wuhan. Qiu told him it was roughly 600 miles away.

Howard released a statement about what happened at the border and how Qiu was being handled at the Holding Center:

"When Qiu notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers of his visit to China, they performed an initial health screening. (CBP continues to facilitate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ... enhanced health screening of travelers entering the United States with a NEXUS to Wuhan, or with recent travel to China, or who exhibit symptoms consistent with the outbreak of novel coronavirus. This enhanced health screening is for symptoms specifically related to the novel coronavirus and is conducted by CDC personnel upon a traveler’s arrival to the U.S.)."

At the Holding Center, he was examined by Division of Correctional Health’s medical staff and flagged due to his recent travel to China, Howard said.

Sheriff's officials notified the state Health Department and the Erie County Health Department. "All parties are working to establish protocols, precautions and protections for jail staff and other inmates," Howard said.

Also, Howard said: "Jail management has taken appropriate measures to ensure the health and welfare of other inmates and staff. In the meantime, medical professionals will be monitoring Qiu’s temperature and other vitals on a set schedule. The Sheriff’s Office has notified the New York State Commission of Correction."

N.Y. health department on coronavirus: 'Risk to the general public is still low'

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