Bernie Sanders Confronts Fauci Over Airlines ‘Endangering Lives’ By Filling Middle Seats


Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Tuesday asked Dr. Anthony Fauci why the federal government wasn’t doing more to enforce social distancing on planes and buses, particularly after American Airlines’ Friday announcement that it would begin booking flights at full capacity as of July 1.

“We’re told over and over again … stay apart, at least six feet apart, if you can,” Sanders said during a hearing of the Senate Health Committee with Fauci and Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “Just the other day, however, American Airlines announced they were going to fill up all of their planes, and other airlines have done the same. So you’re going to have people going from New York to California, five, six hours, sitting inches apart from each other.”

Sanders said the problem included buses where people were packed on “like sardines,” and asked why the CDC or President Donald Trump hadn’t issued an order to prevent that from happening.

“Obviously, that is something of concern. I’m not sure what went into that decision-making,” Fauci said in reference to American Airline, before side-stepping the question with a tangent about the importance of social distancing and wearing face coverings.

“I understand the mask thing, but doesn’t it sound a little bit silly and a little bit in violation of everything you guys have been talking about?” Sanders responded. “To have people sitting next to each other for five or six hours in an airplane, or crowded into a bus? And my question is … the president issues a lot of executive orders, why haven’t we stopped that type of activity?”

Redfield stepped in with more direct criticism of American Airlines. “I can tell you that when they announced that the other day, obviously, there was substantial disappointment with American Airlines. A number of airlines had decided to keep the middle seat. I can tell you this is under critical review, right now, by us at CDC. We don’t think it’s the right message.”

Sanders said he approved of the effort, suggesting airlines and buses that failed to allow social distancing were “endangering the lives of the American people.”

Most airlines have been leaving middle seats unfilled during the coronavirus pandemic, though there have been exceptions. United Airlines has been booking flights to full capacity but notifies passengers when their flight is more than 70 percent full.

Watch above via the Senate Health Committee.

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