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Airlines and White House Reportedly Abandon Contact Tracing Plan

Airlines and White House Reportedly Abandon Contact Tracing Plan
Joe Cortez

After setting an informal deadline of having a program in place by Sept. 1, 2020, both U.S. based carriers and officials inside the White House have reportedly given up on a plan to contact trace foreign visitors coming to the United States. Neither side is optimistic that a plan will be put together by the end of the year.

A plan to start contact tracing for foreign visitors to the United States may have fallen apart, after the airlines and White House have called off meetings ahead of a self-imposed Sept. 1 deadline. Reuters reports both sides say the talks about a measure to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 have come to an end, and a solution may not come this year.

CDC-Driven Plan Stalls After Two Months of Talks

Back in June 2020, representatives from the major American carriers met with members of a federal interagency task force to determine the best way to manage contact tracing among foreign visitors coming into the United States. The plan was driven by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which wanted a method to collect the contact information for inbound flyers.

However, despite setting a deadline for a temporary plan by the beginning of September, officials who spoke to Reuters said the plan probably won’t move forward. Those on the government side raised privacy concerns from any contact tracing plan and which data should be collected.

Although the airlines did not specifically note why the talks ended, a spokesperson for trade group Airlines for America (A4A) told the news agency they would continue “to work collaboratively with the federal government to implement contact tracing.” The spokesperson added: “We believe contact tracing is a key measure that will instill confidence for the traveling public that airlines and the federal government are prioritizing their health and safety.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the White House only said they will continue “…to work with the airlines on the best solution to protect the health and safety of the public not only during this ongoing pandemic but for future ones as well.”

Lack of Contact Tracing Comes After Criticism of COVID-19 Controls

The standstill of the contact tracing measure comes as both union leaders and international trade organizations are expressing frustration over how America has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. The International Air Travel Association placed blame on the “slow virus containment in the U.S.” for a negative airline outlook, while union leaders wrote an open letter to Congress asking for more support in reducing the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

According to the latest data from the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, the United States currently has 5.7 million confirmed cases of Coronavirus, with over 177,000 deaths.

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