Citing Ebola Threat, Westchester County Exec Rob Astorino Calls For West African Flight Ban

The gubernatorial candidate wants to impose a flight ban in response to recent Ebola cases in the US.

Westchester County Executive and Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Tuesday to halt all air travel between West African countries and New York to prevent any potential spread of ebola, during a press conference held near the UN Headquarters in New York.

“This is a world crisis and we must act with extreme urgency to arrest it,” said Astorino, declaring that all air travel between New York and the West African countries most severely affected by Ebola—including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea—should be brought to a complete halt. “I’m not concerned about offending or political correctness, I’m concerned about containing a virus that is spreading rapidly and is causing fear and could lead to panic.”

Astorino’s statement comes after Liberian citizen Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person in the US to be diagnosed with the virus when he was admitted at a Dallas hospital with ebola-like symptoms roughly two weeks ago.

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Read more: Ebola In Westchester? Not Likely, Say Experts

“He fibbed on a paper form, and that was enough to get him on a flight here,” said Astorino concerning Duncan’s arrival in the United States. “Experts tell us that Ebola must be contained in West Africa, yet flights continue to leave that region daily bound for the United States – bound for New York region airports.”

Astorino’s plan is not without critics. According to the New York Observer, the Centers for Disease Control holds that a flight ban would seriously hamper humanitarian aid efforts in West African countries where the death toll has now exceeded 3,400 since the epidemic broke out in March. And even with a flight ban, another obstacle would remain: there are in fact no direct flights that connect West African countries with the US. While speaking with WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond regarding Astorino’s statement, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that passengers who are willing to lie about Ebola exposure could simply travel through another country and gain access to the US in that way.

“Because you’ll just fly to another country, and then you’ll come in from that country,” Cuomo said. “We’re working with Customs on increasing the screening and policing the screening.”

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