REPORT: Trump Admin’s European Travel Ban Was Ineffective And Poorly Executed

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian / Public Domain

Sarah Shaiman

The travel bans created an influx of travel from Europe to American airports, likely responsible for the explosion in Ne

A recent Washington Post investigation found that the Trump Administration’s European travel ban was ineffective and poorly executed, while creating serious confusion for Americans who feared they would be stuck in Europe. Worse, it created an influx of travelers pouring into American airports and bringing Covid-19 with them. 

  • A Northwestern study found that there were likely 10,000 undetected coronavirus cases in New York  by March 1. In February, 1.8 million people traveled from Europe to the United States. 
  • While the virus was in the United States before the travel ban, studies have found the European strain of coronavirus came to the United States as travel surged after the travel ban. 
  • Because of the President’s wording during his address to the nation, Americans were unaware they were exempt from the restrictions and flooded into American airports. One passenger said, “[Trump] said they’re closing the borders.”
  • One flight to Germany was all but abandoned by both passengers and attendants for fear they would not be let back into the country. 
  • Out of 110,000 passengers in the first 4 days, only 140 passengers screened positive once they got back to airports. 
  • Crucially, the president did not consult the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Transportation when creating the travel ban. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control “failed to distribute a new paper questionnaire in time for it to be shared with airlines in advance, meaning passengers had to fill it out upon arrival.”
  • In turn, this created an environment of thousands of potentially infected people reaching over tables for questionnaires and writing utensils. 

A number of people shared photos on social media of congested airports. One traveler tweeted, JFK International Airport “turned into a #CoronaVirus breeding ground,” as passengers were subjected to “useless enhanced #COVID19 screening measures.”

Another traveler, Jack Siebert, contracted Covid-like symptoms while studying abroad in Spain. With a 104 degree fever, his parents booked him a flight back to the United States when they heard of the travel ban. From there, he traveled to O’Hare International Airport, was passed through screening, and went home only to infect his mother and potentially thousands with the virus. If people were exposed, it is unlikely they were informed. A CDC spokesperson said contact tracing was not done on Siebert’s flight, Iberia 6275. 

Trump claims he was correct to roll out the travel bans in the manner that he did. One Trump official said that without the restrictions “you probably would have seen a higher seeding in the United States,” also saying this was informed by the advice of Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx as well as unspecified others. 

Gov. Andrew Cumo (D-NY) said last month, “We closed the front door with the China travel ban, [and] left the back door wide open,” referring to the delay between the China and European travel bans.

Read the full report here. 


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