Trump Now Willing Travel Agent For The Coronavirus
The airports were a complete disaster this weekend as people returned home after Donald Trump's half-assed travel ban. The president shut the doors to much of Europe Wednesday during his markets-tanking address about the coronavirus. It went into effect Friday and apparently the Trump administration had no plan or process in place to ensure this didn't blow up in everyone's highly contagious faces.
The administration clarified that the travel ban didn't apply to American citizens or permanent residents, but panic buying was already in place. Americans rightly wanted to return home to their families. Trump's sudden ban was a great example of what happens when you don't “flatten the curve." The number of travelers re-entering the US overwhelmed the 13 total airports where they were permitted to enter. (That's an ominous number. They should've made it 14 like they do for hotel floors.)
Cheryl Benard, a former senior analyst for the RAND Corporation, described what she encountered when she arrived from London at Dulles International Airport as "a case study in how to spread a pandemic."
I had thought I was lucky to get one of the last seats home. And I was confident, because Dulles had been identified by the administration as one of the handful of U.S. airports equipped to test arriving passengers and admit or quarantine them accordingly, that I would find a rigorous protocol in place upon arrival. Obviously, the administration would not take such a momentous step without solid preparation.
Never underestimate Trump's ability to fuck shit up.
I could not have been more wrong. Upon landing, I spent three hours in a jammed immigration hall trying to decide which analogy fit better: the ignorant Middle Ages during the plague years or the most chaotic airport in the least developed country.
People were jam-packed in non-social-distancing crowds. They waited for hours to collect their bags. Customs was a nightmare.
Benard mentioned how she'd recently flown to Qatar and that disembarking passengers had their temperatures checked. Anyone with a fever was isolated before entering a public area. America didn't roll like that. Customs agents pointed temperature devices at people's foreheads -- sort of like Dr. Crusher treating Starfleet personnel with a sci-fi version of a magic wand. By that point, passengers had spent hours in close contact with hundreds of strangers.
Passengers were asked to touch a fingerprint screen that wasn't wiped or sanitized between uses. Then they were quizzed on their health: “How do you feel?" It was pandemic small talk. The passengers were then freed to go mingle with the public.
There were reports of similar chaos and incompetence at Dallas Fort Worth and Chicago O'Hare. We shouldn't wholly blame customs agents who were unprepared and understaffed. The union that represents Customs screeners declared in December that they were short almost 3,000 agents. Yikes! How did that happen? Surprise, Trump “temporarily" reassigned people to the imaginary crisis at the southern border. WALL was more than just a monument to Trump's racism and vanity. It might've also destroyed the country.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf claimed the added “medical screenings" are only taking an extra 60 seconds per passenger, which appears to be a complete lie. The coronavirus is terrifying but it hasn't made us stupid. We can see the video and pictures from this shitshow. I
llinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer put the smack down Saturday night.
This is asking a lot of a government currently run by morons. Trump's administration waited too late to take the coronavirus outbreak seriously and now the question is whether it's too late for America in general.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).