When Senator Susan Collins defended Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis and claimed that he “did a lot that was right in the beginning,” she specifically pointed to the China travel ban as something he had done well to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. But new reporting has revealed that that hasty decision making and a lack of preparation from the Trump administration led to insufficient screening of a flood of travelers entering the US following the announcement of Trump’s travel bans.


According to a new report, only 10 percent of travelers from travel-restricted countries had their temperature checked upon arrival in the US in a 10-week period after Trump’s new bans were enacted, and only 1,500 out of more than 250,000 of those travelers were given a screening by the Centers for Disease Control.


“Independent reporting has made it clear that even the one example Senator Collins has given to defend Trump’s response to the coronavirus was a mismanaged disaster,” said Maine Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Marra. “Collins is the only member of Maine’s Congressional delegation who has defended Trump’s chaotic and dysfunctional leadership in this crisis. It’s time for her to stop making excuses and start demanding some accountability.”


The New York Times: Screenings Were Porous as Trump Spurred Exodus From Virus Hot Spots


By Zolan Kanno-Youngs

May 7, 2020


Key Points:


  • President Trump’s go-to defense of his early response to the coronavirus is his decision to close down travel from China, the virus’s original epicenter, and then from ravaged Europe.


  • But those hasty decisions led to exoduses of American citizens, with packed, chaotic airports and, according to a new congressional report, porous screenings for passengers who could have been bringing the coronavirus home with them.


  • Medical officials on contract from the Department of Homeland Security checked the temperature of just 10 percent of more than 250,000 travelers at U.S. airports arriving from travel-restricted countries during a 10-week span from January to March, according to a report released Thursday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, undercutting one of the centerpieces of Mr. Trump’s argument that his administration responded aggressively to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.


  • If customs officers noticed symptoms among travelers returning from restricted countries, they referred them to the medical officials on contract stationed at the airport.


  • But out of more than 250,000 travelers those medical officials screened, just under 1,500 were given a third screening by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials between Jan. 17 and March 29. And C.D.C. officials were the ones primarily determining whether a traveler displaying symptoms needed to be federally quarantined.


  • The findings of the report undercut previous statements made by homeland security officials and Mr. Trump, who has pointed to his decision to implement travel restrictions against China, Iran and more than two dozen European countries as evidence that his administration responded aggressively to the pandemic. While Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of homeland security, said the screening helped “reduce and delay the biggest peak in the virus,” many American citizens returning to the United States have also reported a lack of screenings.


  • The release of the report also comes as new evidence emerges that the tidal wave of infections that has killed more than 75,000 Americans came largely from New York City, via travelers from Europe, not China.


  • “Due to denials and delays, the administration lost critical time it could have used to prepare and build up capacity to mitigate — a capacity we are now struggling to build while the virus wreaks havoc in our hospitals and homes,” said Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who is chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on economic and consumer policy.


  • The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to requests for comment. When pressed over whether his administration responded early enough to combat the pandemic, Mr. Trump has repeatedly pointed to one of his favored topics: border restrictions.


  • “I think we’ve made a lot of really good decisions,” Mr. Trump said during a White House briefing last month. “The big decision was closing the border or doing the ban — people coming in from China.”


  • After announcing the barring of foreigners from China in late January, Mr. Trump expanded the travel restrictions to more than two dozen European countries in March. American citizens returning from those countries or South Korea were funneled to 13 designated airports, where they were met by a customs officer, asked questions about their travel and medical history, and could be referred to a screening by a medical official.


  • But Mr. Trump’s erroneous announcement from the White House that he would be “suspending all travel from Europe to the United States,” when it only applied to foreigners, sparked a race to return to the U.S. and chaotic crowds at airports. Administration officials “were so focused on getting staffed up” that they did not address the need for social distancing measures before the restrictions were implemented, according to a statement from the oversight committee.