Trump says he’s considering restricting travel to coronavirus ‘hot spots’
President Trump said Wednesday that officials are considering temporarily limiting flights to and from “hot spots” in the United States that have seen significant numbers of coronavirus cases.
“I am looking at hot spots. I am looking at where flights are going into hot spots. Some of those flights I didn’t like from the beginning, but closing up every single flight on every single airline, that’s a very, very, very rough decision,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday evening.
Trump then suggested restricting travel between hot spots in the country, adding that the administration would be “late in the process” if it took such a step because domestic cases of COVID-19 will likely peak in two weeks.
“We’re thinking about hot spots where you go from spot to spot, both hot. We’ll let you know fairly soon,” Trump said.
Trump was asked repeatedly at Wednesday’s briefing whether he was considering restrictions on domestic travel as his administration seeks to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus across the U.S.
The New York metro area has emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and health officials have warned of spikes in cases in areas such as Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans. The White House on Tuesday released estimates projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus even if individuals adhere to the 30-day social distancing guidelines recommended by the administration.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s key Capitol Hill allies, tweeted late Tuesday that the Trump administration should consider limiting or banning domestic and international air travel over the next 30 days as part of its mitigation strategy.
“We’re thinking about doing that. At the same time, to start these airlines, to start this whole thing over again is very tough,” Trump told reporters Wednesday when asked about Graham’s suggestion.
Trump said domestic travel restrictions could deeply hurt the airline industry, which has already suffered amid the coronavirus outbreak as the administration has recommended Americans avoid nonessential travel and restricted international travel from China and most of Europe.
“We’re certainly looking at it, but once you do that you really are clamping down an industry that is desperately needed,” Trump continued.
Trump’s remarks come after he abruptly floated and then backed off the idea of a temporary quarantine restricting travel from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut over the weekend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instead issued a travel advisory for the area late Saturday night.
Trump administration officials have urged those traveling from the New York metro area to other parts of the country to self-quarantine for 14 days after they do so. The White House guidelines broadly urge Americans to refrain from nonessential travel in addition to avoiding restaurants and bars and gatherings with more than 10 people for the next 30 days.