Flight Attendant Union Chief Calls Out US Over Coronavirus

One of the most influential voices in aviation has called out the U.S. government over a lack of urgency in dealing with the deadly coronavirus.

Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants and a rising, powerful force in the American labor movement, said federal agencies have so far shown a disorganized response and need to do more to contain the virus.

“This can’t be solved by private industry alone, or workers, or unions,” Nelson said on a media briefing call. “Our government must deploy a coordinated response to prevent spread, treat those infected and provide resources and information for workers and the general public.”

Nelson represents 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, including those at United Airlines which, along with American and Delta, have all canceled flights to Hong Kong because of the outbreak.

Nelson and Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers who was also on the call, said the federal government is only offering a ‘piecemeal approach’ to battling the virus. She praised the airlines for being more proactive, even if it had to include suspending routes to China.

“Each carrier is currently determining individual policies regarding travel and it really would be much more helpful if the Department of Transportation issued consistent guidelines,” Nelson said. “They need to convene work groups that include stakeholders and relevant departments, especially the Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services, Education, Labor, FEMA, and the CDC, to coordinate delivery of recommendations, guidance, and materials.”

Nelson noted that one of the most concerning things about the coronavirus is that people who are infected and not yet displaying symptoms can still spread the disease.

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