To Contain Coronavirus, Trump Must Halt Outgoing Flights from JFK, LaGuardia and Newark

The United States and the world face down one of the most challenging tests in modern history in the coronavirus pandemic.  Timely implementation of bold decisions can substantially stem the spread of the coronavirus and significantly limit the havoc it may wreak on mankind.  To help prevent an uncontrollable outbreak in the United States, it is essential that President Trump immediately stop outgoing passenger flights from JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, in light of the quickly spreading virus in New York and New Jersey.

President Trump has proven himself to be a courageous leader time and again, announcing multiple restrictions designed to protect and preserve the lives of Americans in the face of partisan criticism and criticism from other governments.  These actions include his Proclamations of Jan. 31 banning foreign nationals from entering the U.S. from China, of Feb. 29 banning the entry of all foreign nationals for 14 days after having been in Iran, and of March 11 banning foreign nationals from Europe.  In addition, the Pentagon now bans troop movements from countries with outbreaks, including China, South Korea and Italy.  President Trump has taken many additional actions that have helped significantly reduce the rate of the coronavirus outbreak.

These proactive steps by a highly engaged president have played an important role in slowing the spread of the virus, saving many American lives.  Though these actions are critically important in the battle against the spread of coronavirus, more aggressive actions need to be taken without delay to prevent the coronavirus from getting completely out of control and wreaking additional havoc on the health and financial well-being of Americans.

A major cause of the coronavirus explosion in NYC was the reckless delay by Mayor de Blasio in closing down bars, restaurants and schools, after it was already obvious that the virus was spreading out of control in NYC.  A day before his order, de Blasio said, “I am not ready today at this hour to say, let's have a city with no bars, no restaurants, no rec centers, no libraries… I'm not there.”  On March 16, shortly before the closure of gyms, de Blasio went to his favorite gym in Brooklyn, setting a dangerous example for a coronavirus-stricken NYC.  De Blasio delayed implementation of his order until after the weekend, when the damage was already done.

While Mayor de Blasio has significantly endangered public health, President Trump has led from the front.  In addition to his many substantive actions, in coordination with state governments, he should order lockdowns of all uncontrolled coronavirus hotspots in the United States, with the exceptions of necessary personnel and supplies.  This must include a ban on entry to, and exit from, any hotspots where the rate of spread is effectively out of control.  At present, the top states that would fall into this category are New York and New Jersey, or at least the more affected counties therein.

In light of this, all passenger flights, with the exception of those flights that are essential (e.g., for medical reasons), should be banned immediately from all airports in those hotspots.  This would be in line with President Trump’s March 14 declaration that he is considering significant limits on travel from domestic hotspots.  This would also be in line with Governor Ron DeSantis’ request from March 14 to stop domestic travel from hotspot locations, such as New York, particularly in light of the likelihood of such travel significantly exacerbating the spread of the coronavirus outside of those hotspots.

New York has seen by far the most rapid and out of control rise in cases in the country.  In fact, as of March 19, New York had 38.8% of the confirmed cases in the United States (5,367 out of 13,816) and was responsible for 51.1% of the total increase in confirmed cases from the previous day (2,329 out of 4,557).  As of March 19, New York had at least 5,367 confirmed cases with a rise of 1,332 cases from March 17 to March 18 and an additional breathtaking increase of at least 2,329 cases from March 18 to March 19.  In addition, New Jersey had 742 cases as of March 19, up at least 315 confirmed cases from the previous day, and Connecticut has seen more than a doubling of cases in the past day (up 103 to 199).  (Michigan has also seen a worrying rise in cases with at least 336 cases as of March 19, up 217 confirmed cases in one day).

New York is the main driver of coronavirus cases in the United States and is now Ground Zero for coronavirus.  In light of the rapid rise of confirmed cases in the United States, largely on account of it being significantly more contagious than the flu and rapidly spreading, and only partly on account of a dramatic increase in testing, it is essential that immediate action be taken.

In fact, since the beginning of March, there has been an exponential rise in cases in the United States.  On March 2 there were 100 confirmed cases, there were 994 confirmed cases as of March 10, and 9,259 confirmed cases as of March 18, or about a tenfold increase every 8 days.  This means, that short of additional far-reaching government actions, the total confirmed cases may reach 100,000 around March 26, 1 million around April 3, and so on.  It is essential that aggressive governmental actions be taken to ensure that the rise in cases is significantly stemmed while it may still be manageable.

To provide further perspective, as of March 19 New York City had 3,615 confirmed cases of coronavirus or about 428 cases per million, while New York State had about 268 cases per million.  Bergen County, New Jersey had 207 cases per million.  This means that currently, New York State has a higher rate of coronavirus than the hotspots of Germany, France, and South Korea, while NYC has a higher rate of coronavirus than Spain.  In fact, on March 11, when President Trump proclaimed a ban on travel from Europe to the United States, Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, had 207 cases per million, significantly less than New York State, and proportionally well under half of the cases in NYC.  Out of control coronavirus could quickly lead to hospitals becoming overwhelmed and cases not being tracked, allowing the virus to continue its rapid rise even more.

To prevent this, additional actions are needed, including, but not limited to, closing JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark to all outbound passenger flights and all other nonessential flights.  The Trump administration should also consider limiting all nonessential outbound vehicular traffic from New York, New Jersey, and other hotspots.  It is also imperative that all local and state governments with outbreaks impose limited lockdowns within their states, akin to the statewide lockdown of California that Governor Gavin Newsom ordered effective immediately on March 19, to prevent the potential of a nightmarish outbreak.  Governor Cuomo must change his position and similarly order a lockdown of New York.

This is especially important in light of a recent study published on March 16, which estimated that in Wuhan, people with mild or no symptoms transmitted 79% of coronavirus cases.  Therefore, with many likely carriers of coronavirus who are asymptomatic in close proximity in the airports and on flights, there is a high risk of spreading coronavirus, not only to people in other states, but to fellow passengers.  In addition, airplanes have been shown to be a very germ-friendly environment.  And according to research published on March 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine, coronavirus can live for up to 3 days on surfaces.

The coronavirus outbreak will likely be recounted in history as one of the greatest tests in modern history for the people of the United States and of the world.  It is at these times that leaders prove their mettle, and with bold leadership and the help of God, save countless lives.  The world looks to the United States and President Trump for continued guidance and leadership and can expect to get just that.

Image credit: Andy Choinski de Pixabay">Andy Choinsky / Pixabay / public domain

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