President Trump not ruling out temporary grounding of domestic flights between virus hotspots

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

President Donald Trump is “thinking about” shutting down airline flights and passenger train travel due to concerns about spreading the coronavirus.

Just one day after he warned the nation to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks,” the president told reporters Wednesday that he was weighing the option to ground domestic travel between some U.S. cities that appeared to be hot spots for the pandemic.

“We’re thinking about doing that,” Trump said at the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing on Wednesday, admitting concern that the decision would mean “clamping down” on “an industry that is desperately needed.”

“We’re looking at the whole thing because we’re getting into a position now where we want to do that, we have to do that … and we may have some recommendations,” the president said, suggesting temporarily grounding all domestic flights.

He later seemed to indicate the restrictions would be more specific.

“I am looking where flights are going into hot spots,” he said. “Closing up every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very, very rough decision. But we are thinking about hot spots where you go from spot to spot, both hot. And we’ll let you know fairly soon.”

Trump was also considering “similar” restrictions for train travel, noting that air and rail passengers are being subjected to “very strong tests for getting on, getting off.”

“We have trains going back and forth, people don’t think of trains but we do a lot of transportation business,” the president said at the briefing.

“When you start closing up entire transportation systems and opening them up, that’s a very tough thing to do,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory last weekend urging residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to “refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.” Though passenger flights have dropped significantly due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which currently has surpassed 200,000 cases across the nation, limited flights continued.

Just 146,348 passengers were screened by the Transportation Security Administration on Tuesday, a 10-year-low and a major drop from the 2,026,256 the same day last year, according to Yahoo News.

Florida, Maryland, South Carolina, and Texas governors had implemented their own restrictions, announcing a self-quarantine for 14 days for anyone traveling to their states from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut.

“Time to consider limiting or banning domestic and international air travel for next 30 days,” Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted Tuesday.

“Does this make sense in terms of aggressive containment?” the Kentucky Republican asked in a tweet noting the continuing direct flights.

The U.S. Department of Transportation indicated that struggling U.S. airlines have to keep flights going if they accept federal aid that was part of the coronavirus stimulus package.

“Essentially, the U.S. government is providing funds to motivate airlines to continue air service and not involuntarily furlough any team members through a period of incredibly low demand for air travel,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told employees last week. “There are no similar provisions in the bill for other large industries.”


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