Over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued out a warning to all Americans, recommending them to stop attending events that had 50 or more participants involved.
However, due to the urgency of President Donald Trump’s proclamation last Wednesday, that he would be banning all travel coming from Europe starting on Friday, tens of thousands of Americans flooded airports across the nation, producing a situation that countered what health experts want to see happen during the coronavirus outbreak.
Trump’s announcement last week was vague:
“To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days,” he said. “The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.”
Although Trump explained there would be “exemptions” for Americans, he added a caveat that only those who had “undergone appropriate screenings” would be allowed to travel back.
The address by Trump required a more detailed explanation from acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, who elaborated that the ban wouldn’t apply to American citizens, permanent residents, or family members of Americans.
— Breaking Aviation News (@breakingavnews) March 15, 2020
Yet the damage from Trump’s speech had been done, and over the weekend, tens of thousands of Americans came home in droves — producing long waits in airports upon their arrivals, some several-hours long.
Up to 40,000 citizens made travel arrangements from Europe to the U.S. over the weekend, some spending as much as $20,000 to ensure their travel arrangements would work out.
Besides being tortuous for those standing in them, the lines produced a situation that went against the very nature of the current recommendations from the CDC — that people do their very best to avoid being in crowds of 50 people or more.
This is the scene at O’Hare airport. The traveler who took the photo said it’s a 6-hour wait for bags then on to customs for 2-4 more of waiting in shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Police are handing out water and disinfectant wipes. @fly2ohare #ord #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/UTx9E0nj1s
— Brooke Geiger McDonald (@BrookeGMcDonald) March 15, 2020
It’s possible that such huge crowds and situations like these could have been avoided had the Trump administration given more thought to what the president would say in his speech on Wednesday, or coordinated a way for Americans who wanted to to get home in a more orderly way.
Instead, there was chaos at airports across the nation — and likely, an increase in the spread of coronavirus as a result.
Chris Walker is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, who focuses on news, politics, and analysis of world events. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, since 2005 Chris has reported on workers’ rights protests in Wisconsin, opined on four separate presidential elections and written on a number of other political subjects for a variety of national online publications.