TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday creating a task force aimed at preparing the state to deal with potential fallout from a virus that has spread to more than 20 countries and infected more than 17,000 people.

Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement that 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 coronavirus.

Since December, the virus has killed hundreds and sickened thousands, mostly in China. Symptoms include fever, cough and in more severe cases shortness of breath or pneumonia.

The task force will be chaired by Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli and includes other members of the governor’s Cabinet.

The task force will coordinate with the federal government and the Newark airport “to ensure effective communications and dissemination of information,” according to the governor. The panel will also coordinate with hospitals to manage preparations for the possible treatment of patients.

Last week, the state set up a 24-hour hotline to answer the public’s questions about coronavirus.

The number is 1-800-222-1222 and is being staffed by the state’s poison center. The state Health Department has set up a website with information, as well, at

Chinese health authorities have reported 361 deaths and 17,205 confirmed cases of coronavirus, an increase of 2,829 over a 24-hour period.

Murphy said New Jersey has no confirmed cases of the virus, which originated in Wuhan, China.

China has cut off access to Wuhan and 16 other cities to prevent people from leaving and spreading the virus further.

The Associated Press

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