GOP senator calls for travel ban to stop coronavirus spread

GOP senator calls for travel ban to stop coronavirus spread
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonDemocrats call on FTC to investigate allegations of TikTok child privacy violations GOP senators urge Trump not to restrict guest worker visas Chinese official accuses US of 'pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War' MORE (R-Ark.) is calling for the Trump administration to implement a “targeted travel ban” to stop the spread of a coronavirus from China.

In a letter to members of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE’s Cabinet Tuesday, Cotton said it may be too late for China to contain the virus within its borders, and called for a ban on all commercial flights between the U.S. and China.

Cotton said U.S. citizens living in China should have the option to return to America, but only under “appropriate, elevated monitoring.”

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He said officials should develop criteria to allow “critical trade” to continue, like cargo flights and seaboard shipping, to minimize the impact on the U.S. economy. 

Cotton sent the letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSchumer slams Trump's Rose Garden briefing on China as 'pathetic' Britain mulls pathway to citizenship for more than 3M inhabitants of Hong Kong Overnight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG's firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn in MORE, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfHundreds of migrant children, teens deported under pandemic border policy: report Trump administration finalizes indefinite extension of coronavirus border restrictions   US-Mexico border restrictions extended to June 22 MORE.

"Given the latest developments and the many unknowns about this virus, we ought to follow Benjamin Franklin's maxim: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Cotton wrote.

The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning Americans to avoid any nonessential travel to China, and the Chinese government has quarantined close to 50 million people in cities across the country.

The administration is also planning to increase screenings for the virus from five to 20 U.S. airports. 

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At the same time, United Airlines said it was suspending some flights to mainland China beginning Feb. 1 and lasting through Feb. 8 because of a “significant decline in demand.” 

No other airlines have announced similar decisions, but United operates about a dozen flights a day to Hong Kong and mainland China.

U.S. health officials have appeared reluctant to commit to any travel ban, and experts have expressed doubts about a ban's effectiveness at stopping the spread of disease. 

For example, the mayor of Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have started, acknowledged that more than 5 million people left the city despite the government lockdown. 

Earlier Tuesday, Azar said all options are on the table to protect Americans, including travel restrictions. However, he noted that diseases “are not terribly good at respecting borders.”

More than 4,500 people in China have been infected with the virus, and 106 have died. There are only five cases in the U.S., and officials are currently monitoring 73 possible cases in 26 states after a number of people they were previously monitoring tested negative for the virus.