(The Center Square) – President Donald Trump said Wednesday the federal government is considering shutting down air travel from the nation's coronavirus hot spots as the number of confirmed U.S. cases topped 200,000 with more than 4,300 deaths, though admitted that would be "tough."
“We’re thinking about doing that, at the same time ... to start these airlines and to start this whole thing over is very tough,” Trump said at his daily press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledging that the airline industry is suffering severe economic difficulties because of travel bans and other fears over the spread of the disease. “And you have them going in some cases from going to hot spot to hot spot."
The state of New York, New York City in particular, is the epicenter of the virus in the U.S., with close to 2,000 deaths statewide and nearly 1,400 in the city. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week ordered New York City and New Orleans-area residents – New Orleans is another hot spot – traveling to his state to quarantine for at least two weeks. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued similar restrictions on visitors from hot-spot areas, including all of neighboring Louisiana.
Earlier Wednesday, flights between the U.S. and Cuba were suspended to help stop the spread of the virus.
"Together we have the power to save countless lives," Trump said of travel restrictions, social distancing and other guidelines put in place by the federal government. "In this time of need, I know every American will do their patriotic duty."
The president also reiterated that he won't institute a national stay at home order as more than half of U.S. states have, saying states need flexibility.
“You have to look, you have to give a little flexibility," Trump said. "If you have a state in the Midwest, or if Alaska for example doesn't have a problem, it's awfully tough to say close it down. We have to have a little bit of flexibility.”
Trump began his Wednesday briefing by announcing enhanced counter narcotics actions against cartels that he said were attempting to exploit the coronavirus pandemic.
"We can't let the drug cartels to exploit the pandemic" to endanger American lives, Trump said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. military are aiding in the efforts, he said.