The Associated Press has reported that Donald Trump and the White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines during the Coronavirus outbreak despite being at high-risk to contract it.
Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC instead saying that people should use “common sense”.
In a tweet, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, Katie Miller, said that “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force” and called the AP story “complete fiction.”
Pence, speaking Saturday after meeting with cruise ship industry leaders in Florida, targeted his travel advice to a narrower group: older people with serious health problems.
“If you’re a senior citizen with a serious underlying health condition, this would be a good time to practice common sense and to avoid activities including traveling on a cruise line,” Pence said, adding they were looking to cruise line officials for action, guidance and flexibility with those passengers.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, this week warned U.S. lawmakers against minimizing the viruses risk for vulnerable people. During a Congressional hearing, he said the coronavirus “is like the angel of death for older individuals.”
On Friday, the CDC quietly updated its website to tell older adults and people with severe medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid crowds. It urges those people to “take actions to reduce your risk of exposure,” but it doesn’t specifically address flying.