“We are thinking about doing it,” Trump told reporters at a White House briefing, one day after warning the nation to prepare for “two weeks,” with 100,000 to 240,000 coronavirus deaths expected, even if the guidelines on social separation are maintained.
Limited flights continue to operate between cities like New York and Detroit, although passenger numbers have dropped across the country. The Transportation Security Administration screened only 146,348 passengers on Tuesday, compared to 2,026,256 on the same day last year.
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Nonetheless, Trump has said he is considering further restrictions, while expressing concern about the impact on already struggling airlines, saying that once you do that, “you are really limiting” an “industry that is desperately needed. “
Trump, however, offered mixed messages at the briefing.
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He seemed to suggest that he was looking to temporarily block all domestic flights, saying, “We are looking at it all because we are now in a position where we want to do this, we must do it … and we may have recommendations. ”
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But later insisted on whether this was his intention, he said he was thinking of something less restrictive.
“I am looking at where the flights are going to the hot spots,” he said. “Closing each flight on each airline is a very, very, very difficult decision. But we think of the hot spots where you go from place to place, both hot. And we will let you know soon enough. “
Trump has also said he is considering similar restrictions on train travel, but erroneously claims that anyone boarding an airplane or train is currently undergoing “very rigorous tests to get on and off.”
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In the past, Trump has said that he is reluctant to fly on the ground because of the difficulties encountered in putting the system back in place and operating it once the threat posed by the virus wears off.
“When you start shutting down entire transportation systems and then opening them, it’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said on Wednesday.
During the crisis, Trump was criticized for acting too slowly and for mixed messages from his administration.
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Over the weekend, he floated but later withdrew on the idea of a mandatory quarantine for residents of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut. Ultimately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory urging state residents to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days.
Indeed, Trump seemed to recognize on Wednesday that perhaps he should have acted sooner.
“It is a very important decision to do so, and we are quite late in the process from the point of view that it is starting,” he said. “You will start to see, I think in the next two weeks, you will start to see us reach a peak and start to descend. “
© 2020 The Canadian Press