Fauci criticizes American Airlines, says 100,000 daily cases possible
The government’s top experts in infectious diseases on Tuesday criticized American Airlines’ decision to pack flights full while the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow across much of the United States.
“Obviously that is something that is of concern. I’m not sure what went into that decision making,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told a Senate panel. “I think in the confines of an airplane that becomes even more problematic.”
Several U.S. airlines say they are limiting capacity on planes to between 60% and 67% of all seats. However, United Airlines never promised to leave seats empty, and American said last week that starting Wednesday it would drop its effort to keep half of all middle seats empty.
Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, spoke with other experts during a Senate health committee hearing. Asked to forecast the outcome of recent virus surges in some states, Fauci said he can’t make an accurate prediction but believes it will be “very disturbing.”
“We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned,” said Fauci.
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said the airline has “multiple layers of protection in place for those who fly with us, including required face coverings, enhanced cleaning procedures, and a pre-flight COVID-19 symptom checklist.” He said American was also giving customers the option of changing their ticket if their flight might be full.
The CEOs of American and United have said that even with middle seats empty, it is impossible to follow 6-foot social-distancing on a plane, so airlines rely on masks, deep cleaning and air-filtration systems to prevent spreading the virus.
“It’s less about social distancing and it’s more about the air and quality of air on board the airplane that makes people safe,” said United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, who added he had not seen the health officials’ comments.