“The clear message to people who fit into those categories is: ‘You ought to become a semi-hermit. You’ve got to really get serious in your personal life about social distancing.’”
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation, advising elderly and immuno-compromised Americans to avoid flying on commercial airlines due to the coronavirus, was overruled by the White House, a federal official told The Associated Press under condition of anonymity.
Earlier Saturday, the Trump administration commented on CDC guidelines to attempt to control the outbreak of the virus, including details regarding travel.
In a speech, US Vice President Mike Pence, who President Donald Trump has given the responsibility to lead the administration's efforts to combat the virus, said that: “If you’re a senior citizen with a serious underlying health condition, this would be a good time to practice common sense and to avoid activities including traveling on a cruise line.”
He added that "Those Americans should avoid any activities that might unnecessarily expose them to the coronavirus." This was in reference to the Diamond Princess cruise ship that had been quarantined for weeks off the coast of Japan as the coronavirus spread through its passengers and crew, as well as the Grand Princess cruise ship currently quarantined off the coast of San Francisco after 21 passengers tested positive on it for the virus.
Pence's speech is a departure from the guidelines the CDC posted to their website on Friday, which told older adults and those with serious medical conditions such as a heart, lung or kidney disease – rather than just the elderly with a serious health condition – to "stay home as much as possible" and "take actions to reduce your risk of exposure."
Last week, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, warned lawmakers not to downplay or minimize how severe the coronavirus risk is for vulnerable Americans. Speaking at a congressional hearing, Hotez explained that the coronavirus “is like the angel of death for older individuals,” AP reported.
According to Vanderblit University infectious diseases expert Dr. William Schaffner, “The clear message to people who fit into those categories is: ‘You ought to become a semi-hermit. You’ve got to really get serious in your personal life about social distancing, and in particular avoiding crowds of any kind,’” according to AP.