The White House this week batted down a recommendation from health officials that elderly people and those who are “physically fragile” not fly on commercial airplanes, an unnamed official with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.
The AP reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) submitted a plan this week with the recommendation as a way to control the spread of the virus. However, administration officials reportedly ordered that that particular provision of the plan be removed, according to the federal official.
The Trump administration has since then suggested that those who are most susceptible to the virus not travel, but, according the news source have “stopped short of stronger guidance” laid out by the CDC.
The official in question spoke to the AP under anonymity, as they were not authorized to speak about the matter otherwise.
The federal official’s revelation comes as the disease continues to spread across the country, with cases now confirmed in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The news also comes as Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceHouse makes telework plans amid coronavirus outbreak Azar contradicts Pence, says there’s no coronavirus testing kit shortage University of Washington switches to virtual classes after staff member tests positive for coronavirus MORE on Saturday spoke after a meeting with representatives from the cruise ship industry, a section of the travel industry that has been in the news most recently due to the outbreak.
The vice president was assigned as leader of the administration’s coronavirus task force and is also in charge of messaging and media relations concerning the status of the virus response.
Pence, reportedly “narrowed” his focus when he spoke about precautions for certain populations noting that “older people with serious health problems” should “practice common sense and avoid activities including traveling on a cruise line.”
Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, said the AP’s reporting “is complete fiction.”
“It was never a recommendation to the Task Force. I look forward to Sunday morning hosts asking our medical professionals about it tomorrow,” she tweeted.
This story is complete fiction. It was never a recommendation to the Task Force. I look forward to Sunday morning hosts asking our medical professionals about it tomorrow. https://t.co/yL9LBRtVMP
— Katie Miller (@VPPressSec) March 8, 2020
Democratic lawmakers have been skeptical of the administration’s messaging on the virus, claiming they are downplaying the disease in an effort to gain political points leading up to the general election.
The administration’s messaging has, at times, differed from the scientific community.
During a press conference last week, Trump repeatedly said he did not think an outbreak was “inevitable,” while Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, described it as not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
More than 100,000 cases have been confirmed globally, in more than 90 countries and territories, including more than 3,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. There are currently 424 confirmed cases in the U.S. 17 deaths.