The recent move by American Airlines to end their policy of limiting bookings in order to provide social distancing on flights drew opposition from the head of the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday, as federal health experts said planes, trains, and buses operating at full capacity won't help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
"I can tell you that, when they announced that the other day, obviously, there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines," said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield at a Senate hearing on the virus. "We don't think it's the right message."
"I mean, obviously that is something that is of concern," chimed in Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, who said social distancing and masks are two key elements of the fight against the virus.
"I think in the confines of an airplane, that becomes even more problematic," Fauci added.
Dr Robert Redfield, CDC director, says he has “substantial disappointment “ with American Airlines decision to fully book flights. “We don’t think it is the right message.” Sen. Sanders: “Tell these companies it is unacceptable and endangering the lives of American people.” ✈️— Allison Winter (@awinternews) June 30, 2020
Director of the CDC (which has steadfastly declined to issue any regulations regarding Covid and air travel) says American Airlines selling middle seats isn't "the right message."— Sam Mintz (@samjmintz) June 30, 2020
"That is unacceptable behavior," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said of the American Airlines decision. "They are endangering the lives of the American people."
The hearing featured renewed warnings from Fauci, Redfield and other health experts about the spread of the virus, as some states have tightened Coronavirus restrictions in recent days amid a surge in cases.
"We're seeing significant increases in the southeast and southwest regions of this nation," Dr. Redfield told Senators, who said a combination of increased testing, community spread, and localized outbreaks are all driving the increase.
"We recommend a mask for everyone on the outside," said Dr. Fauci, as he implored Americans of all ages to wear masks when they might come into contact with other people.
"When you're outside and don't have the capability of maintainting distance, you should wear a mask at all times," Fauci added.
The hearing began with a plea from the panel chairman for President Trump to lead the call for masks and face coverings, as an easy way to hold back the virus.
"The President has plenty of admirers," said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). "They would follow his lead."
But so far, the President has resisted that idea, leaving state and local elected officials to step into that leadership role.