WASHINGTON — Amid growing concerns over a lack of passenger screening for the coronavirus at the nation’s airports, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that the Trump administration was taking the issue seriously.
“The president is working with TSA. He’s working with airlines,” McEnany said at a White House press briefing. “We want to ensure that our TSA employees are safe, that those who are traveling are safe, and he has had those conversations, and we are keeping people safe at the TSA and the passengers as well,” she said.
Experts have drawn attention to the fact that nearly four months after the coronavirus began to spread around the world, there are currently no additional COVID-19 screenings for domestic travelers in the U.S. The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to implement temperature screening at a dozen airports next week.
According to the Transportation Security Administration, over 500 of its airport security screening officers have contracted COVID-19. Non-screening employees at the agency have also become sick and, in total, six TSA employees have died. After McEnany said the Trump administration was keeping TSA employees safe, Yahoo News asked her about those TSA employees who have died or become sick after contracting the virus.
“We’ve taken action. We’re working with the TSA. We’re keeping America’s essential workers safe and we are praying for all of those who have been affected by coronavirus,” McEnany said.
The number of air travelers has declined dramatically since March, when the Trump administration issued an alert warning against international travel. However, as some states begin easing coronavirus lockdowns, there are signs air travel is picking back up. Experts who have spoken to Yahoo News said more airport screening measures need to be put in place as the country reopens and suggested there are manageable ways to implement coronavirus testing at airports. Union leaders representing flight attendants and pilots have also raised concerns about the current lack of COVID-19 precautions.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also reportedly clashed with the White House over coronavirus security measures for air travel. On May 9, USA Today reported that CDC officials were overruled by the White House when they argued airport temperature checks would be an ineffective step. On Wednesday morning CNN reported that CDC officials felt “muzzled” by the White House when they attempted to issue an air travel warning in March. That alert was ultimately delayed by a week.
Earlier this month a House investigation led by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., the chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on economic and consumer policy, found that screening procedures for international passengers coming into the U.S. from coronavirus hot spots in Italy and South Korea in March were “limited and stagnant.” Krishnamoorthi, who is continuing to investigate coronavirus screening procedures, responded to McEnany’s comments by saying he believes the White House has not yet implemented an adequate plan.
“Before airline travel ramps back up, the administration needs to put forth a plan to effectively screen infected travelers,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I have seen no such plan.”
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