Gov. Murphy sets up panel to coordinate on Chinese coronavirus outbreak

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Gov. Phil Murphy is creating a task force aimed at preparing the state to deal with the potential fallout from a new virus outbreak in China.

The governor signed the order Monday. He says Newark Liberty International Airport will serve as one of 11 major airports in the country authorized to receive travelers from China, requiring extra screening for the coronavirus.

The task force will be chaired by Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and includes other members of the governor's Cabinet. Murphy says the task force will coordinate with the federal government and the Newark airport “to ensure effective communications and dissemination of information.”

"The situation poses a serious public health threat, but the risk to New Jersey residents remains low and our level of preparedness is high,” Persichilli said in a statement.

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The virus is responsible for at least 360 deaths in China, with 17,000 people infected.

The outbreak has spread to 20 other countries, including the United States. There are 11 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. – in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington state. Planes are being sent to China to pick up Americans who are being told to evacuate.

"Yes, we have a handful more flights that will be heading to China to bring Americans back home from Hubei Province,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The exact timing of those we are still coordinating with the Chinese government but we anticipate that they will happen in the next handful of."

RELATED: Newark to begin screening for coronavirus, US advises against travel to China 

Those returning could be quarantined for 14 days. Foreign nationals from China are being told they won't be allowed entry into U.S. But Chinese officials say that Americans are overreacting.

"Banning the entry of foreigners who traveled to China in the past 14 days is suspected to be violating civil rights instead of reducing risks of virus spreading,” said Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

The World Health Organization says it's working to develop a vaccine for this coronavirus as quickly as possible.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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