House subcommittee says Trump administration did not adequately screen travelers from Italy, South Korea for COVID-19
A House committee probe found that the Trump administration failed to adequately screen travelers from Italy and South Korea in early March after both countries showed earlier outbreaks of the coronavirus.
“This investigation reveals another opportunity the administration missed to limit the impact of coronavirus,” said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
The subcommittee was briefed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office and the Department of State on how the administration executed the provisions in its travel ban.
The probe found that Italian and South Korean officials were the ones conducting screenings after the State Department unveiled a requirement on March 3 that all returning passengers from those countries be screened for fever and other symptoms.
On March 14 Trump issued stricter travel restrictions. According to State Department data provided to the panel, only 13 passengers on direct flights from Italy and 56 from South Korea were stopped before boarding planes to the U.S. during the 11-day period.
The panel was unable to find out why the policy was only applied to direct flights from Italy and South Korea. A State Department official said it was a decision from CBP, though a CBP official denied that the agency had any role in that aspect of the policy implementation.
The White House deferred to the DHS and the State Department for comment. Both agencies did not immediately respond to inquires from The Hill.
President Trump has often touted his early calls for travel restrictions in China, though the committee’s findings caste doubt on the execution of such policies.
“After imposing a travel ban and enacting health screenings for travel from China at the start of February, the President told us they had everything under control,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Yet, the Administration did little else to stop the inflow of the virus through our airports until mid-March, and it disregarded valuable opportunities to slow the spread through enhanced entry screenings.”
Author: J. Edward Moreno
Photo Credit: Stefani Reynolds