Trump says he’s in touch with airlines about testing international travelers

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President Trump on Tuesday said his administration has been in touch with airlines about testing passengers coming to the U.S. from South America for the coronavirus.

“We’re talking to the governor, we’re talking with others also that have a lot of business coming in from South America, Latin America, and we’ll make a determination,” Trump said during an Oval Office meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). “We’re also setting up a system where we do some testing and we’re working with the airlines on that. Testing on the plane.”

Asked if he meant temperature checks or coronavirus tests, Trump said it would be both.

Trump said he is not currently considering cutting off travel from South America, but urged DeSantis to inform him if such restrictions would be helpful.

DeSantis said he’s advocated for rapid testing of passengers. He argued that airlines should be responsible for administering the tests, citing concerns that travelers coming from a hot spot like Brazil could cause cases to spike in Florida.

“We could be way on the other side doing well in Florida and then you could just have people kind of come in,” the governor said.

“Maybe some of these airliners, it should be on them to check before they’re getting on and coming to this country,” he added. “I think we’re technologically more advanced where there should be something like that. So I’ve been advocating for that. I’ve been talking with other governors about it.”

Airlines for America, an industry group that represents major airlines in the U.S., indicated in a statement later Tuesday that it would fall to the government to mandate testing of passengers.

“Since the onset of this crisis, U.S. airlines have closely followed and complied with all health and safety rules regarding the novel coronavirus,” Katherine Estep, communications director for Airlines for America, said in a statement.

“This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation and U.S. carriers remain in close contact with Congress, the Administration, federal agencies and public health experts as we prepare for a relaunch of our industry,” she added. “In the U.S., all screening processes for the traveling public are the responsibility of the government.”

The Abbott Labs rapid tests are still being scaled up and distributed across the U.S. They can produce positive virus results in as little as five minutes and deliver a negative result in as few as 13 minutes, but the company has reportedly warned that they can produce false negatives if a certain solution is used to read samples.

The Trump administration has barred travel unrelated to commerce from China, Europe, Canada and Mexico. The government has yet to put restrictions on South America.

Brazil has more than 68,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins data, the most of any country in South America. The continent could face an increase in cases as the weather changes in the southern hemisphere.

Updated at 6:04 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Ron DeSantis

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