Amid Coronavirus, Top U.S. Health Expert Urges Elderly Americans: Don't Get on Airplanes, Cruise Ships

One of the country's top health experts who is working with the Trump administration to contain the coronavirus offered simple advice to elderly or vulnerably ill Americans: don't get on airplanes and cruise ships.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared on several Sunday TV news programs urging Americans, particularly older or ailing Americans, not to travel as coronavirus cases continue to spread. Fauci said it's "possible" the U.S. could lock down entire cities or regions, notably the Seattle area, using a similar containment tactic in Italy. He also said there has been an "acceleration of cases" over the past week and he urged "social distancing" and keeping away from all crowded places

"Right now, take a look at things that are at high risk — crowded places, getting on airplanes. And absolutely don't get on a cruise ship," Fauci urged Americans who may have underlying conditions including heart disease, chronic lung disease or diabetes.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pressed Fauci on whether the U.S. could see a lockdown of its citizens similar to that of Italy, whose government quarantined more than one-quarter of the population.

"We have to be realistic," Fauci—who leads the NIAID, one of 27 factions of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—responded. "I don't think it would be as draconian as 'nobody in, nobody out.' But if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call mitigation, where you'll have to do what is essentially social distancing."

Fauci said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the State Department plan to issue recommendations to "vulnerable" Americans, particularly those afflicted with "underlying" health conditions. He warned these individuals to be pro-active and reiterated avoiding travel. "I mean right now. Don't want until things get worse. Say no large crowds, no long trips," he told NBC News.

When asked again about the potential quarantining of millions of Americans, Fauci told Fox News' Wallace: "It's possible... you don't want to alarm people, but given the spread we see, anything is possible."

He briefly discussed finding the "right balance" in discussing the spread of COVID-19 and avoiding "spin" of the facts for political narratives.

"Staying away from spin and just giving people the information that you need based on evidence and hard facts, when you have the evidence you give it as it is — if you don't have all the evidence, because we're in a dynamic situation — you use your best judgment in recommendations and guidelines. But you always, always must be truthful with the American public."

Last week, Fauci told Politico the Trump administration has never "muzzled" him from relaying information to the general public for political purposes. He noted that his duty won't be compromised the by the president, even if he had been pressured. "You don't want to go to war with the president, but you've got to walk the fine balance of making sure you continue to tell the truth."

President Donald Trump stirred controversy last week after he suggested the 3,500 passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship being stranded outside San Francisco was not the fault of the U.S. government's response. "They would like to have the people come off. I'd rather have the people stay [on the ship]. But I'd go with them. I told them to make the final decision. I would rather — because I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault."

airplane passengers coronavirus travel warning
One of the country's top health experts who is working with the Trump administration to contain the coronavirus offered simple advice to elderly or vulnerably ill Americans: don't get on airplanes, don't get on cruise ships. HECTOR RETAMAL / Contributor/Getty Images
Amid Coronavirus, Top U.S. Health Expert Urges Elderly Americans: Don't Get on Airplanes, Cruise Ships | U.S.