NEW YORK—Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino called on the Federal Aviation Administration to ban flights to the United States from the West African nations where the Ebola virus is most prevalent, to safeguard Americans from the disease.
“This is a world crisis and we must act with extreme urgency to arrest it,” Astorino said on Tuesday.
Astorino said that current procedures aimed at stopping the spread of Ebola from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone were inadequate, pointing to the Liberian man hospitalized in Dallas for Ebola who was able to get past screenings for the virus by simply lying on a questionnaire.
“We know that screening protocols in affected West African nations are faulty and inadequate; they’re conducted by local governments, not the CDC or U.S. health experts,” he said. “It’s why British Airways and Air France have also halted their flights.”
The Republican candidate for governor of New York has adopted a strikingly different tone on how to best respond to the outbreak of Ebola than elected Democrats, who haven’t played up the urgency of the virus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday that he was “very confident” that the city could handle an Ebola outbreak, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed proposals for a flight-ban, arguing that it could be bypassed by taking a detour.
The U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection can still track flights from West African nations to the United States with stops in other countries as long as they were booked on single tickets, according to the Washington Post.
“New York has a great health care system, but it also has very close quarters, probably closer quarters than any other American city, and viruses thrive in cities,” Astorino said. “It defies common sense that we would allow air travel from Ebola- stricken nations until airport screenings are guaranteed to be foolproof.”
“I’m well aware it’s not a perfect solution; people enter New York from Canada and other nations everyday, but New York and the federal government have an obligation to do what they can to mitigate against harm,” he added.
Astorino also countered the claim that a flight-ban would hamper humanitarian aid to the regions hit by Ebola because returning aid workers could be effectively screened.
“We would employ U.S. safeguards on returning American aid workers, but asking prospective civilian passengers to check off boxes or have their temperature checked is not enough for a massive public health crisis currently at stake,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this article