Chicago Sun-Times

Fauci crit­i­cizes Amer­i­can Air­lines, says 100,000 daily cases pos­si­ble

- BY DAVID KOENIG AND RI­CARDO AL­FONSO-ZAL­DIVAR Airlines · Infectious Diseases · Transportation · Industries · Health Conditions · American Airlines · United States of America · United Airlines · National Institutes of Health · Anthony Fauci

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.

 ?? AL DRAGO/POOL VIA AP ?? Dr. An­thony Fauci tes­ti­fies at a Se­nate hear­ing Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.
AL DRAGO/POOL VIA AP Dr. An­thony Fauci tes­ti­fies at a Se­nate hear­ing Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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