In a new report, a federal official apparently told the Associated Press that The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines due to the COVID-19 virus.
The official spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.
In a tweet, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence – who is leading the U.S. response team to the virus – said “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force” and called the AP story “complete fiction.”
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention briefly had it up on its website before taking it down and tempering its advisory. Instead of saying seniors and the physically fragile not fly, it now reads that older adults and people with severe medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid crowds. The warning did not address flying.
Following a coronavirus.html” target=”_self” rel=”nofollow noopener noreferrer”>meeting Saturday with cruise line executives, Pence also tempered his thoughts and did not address the airlines when he said, “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.”
COVID-19 has caused more than 100,000 illnesses in 90 countries, and more than 3,500 deaths.
As the AP noted, the flu-like viral illness causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But — like the flu — it can cause pneumonia and be much more lethal to people made frail by old age and by conditions that make it harder for their bodies to fight infections.
Dr. Tom Frieden, a former CDC director, said that while the risk in the U.S. remains low, the conversation still needs to take place.
“We are going from the calm before the storm to the beginning of the storm,” said Frieden, who now heads Resolve to Save Lives, an organization promoting global public health
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Travel Industry Lauds Passage of Paycheck Protection Program Reform Bill
The U.S. Senate passed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Flexibility Act on Wednesday, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk for final approval.
The reform bill provides business owners with additional flexibility and more time to utilize loan money and still be forgiven under the PPP established to provide economic relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The travel industry has been quick to commend lawmakers. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is in full support having advocated for the improvements behind the scenes.
“We commend the Senate for passing the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (H.R. 7010), which would change PPP loan terms—in some cases retroactively—in a number of ways ASTA has advocated for, including five-year loan terms, reducing the requirement that 75 percent of the loan must go to payroll to get forgiveness, allowing forgivable expense over 24 weeks (as opposed to the current eight) and allowing companies to restore headcount without jeopardizing forgiveness by the end of the year (versus the current June 30),” Eben Peck, EVP Advocacy, ASTA, said in a statement.
“While the PPP will remain complex, this bill gives more flexibility to PPP recipients and increases the chances that loans can be fully forgiven,” Peck concluded.
The U.S. Travel Association also wasted no time praising the decision, calling it an “important step.”
“The PPP changes passed by both chambers are another important step in providing relief to small businesses that otherwise will not survive until the economic recovery phase,” added U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes. “The modification to the portion of funds that can be used for non-payroll expenses is especially crucial to travel-related small businesses, which have comparatively high capital overhead but virtually zero incoming revenue because of the necessary measures in place to stem the spread of the pandemic.”
U.S. Travel still believes that there’s more work to be done to ensure a successful recovery. The organization is encouraging officials to extend PPP eligibility to non-profit and quasi-governmental entities responsible for driving local and regional economic development.
“Like the businesses they serve, the finances of these non-profits have been devastated by the standstill in travel and tourism, and the moment of recovery will be moot unless they can keep their lights on to take advantage of the return in travel demand,” Barnes stated. “We urge leaders to move urgently to enact the next phase of coronavirus response legislation, which is absolutely vital to the future of the travel and tourism industry, and to prioritize expanding eligibility to those most hard hit by this pandemic such as destination marketing organizations.”
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