WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump is considering halting flights to America's coronavirus hot spots, as another four states adjusted to life under a sweeping stay-at-home directive yesterday.
"We're certainly looking at it, but once you do that you really are clamping down an industry that is desperately needed," Mr Trump said about the potential plan to halt flights during a White House news briefing on Wednesday.
The proposal might shut down traffic at airports in hard-hit New York, New Orleans and Detroit.
"I am looking at hot spots. I am looking where flights are going into hot spots," Mr Trump said.
"But closing up every single flight on every single airline, that's a very, very, very rough decision. But we are thinking about hot spots, when you go from spot to spot, both hot."
Domestic travel has already been sharply curtailed due to sinking demand. A US$2.2 trillion (S$3.16 trillion) rescue package announced last week included billions of dollars to prop up the airline industry.
Mr Trump continued to oppose a national shutdown, which some have urged to save lives. He said flexibility was needed as some states had low infection rates.
Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada each imposed strict stay-at-home policies on Wednesday, with the addition of these four states now putting more than 80 per cent of the American population under lockdown. A total of 39 states and the District of Columbia now require residents to stay home except for essential outings to the doctor or grocery store.
The national death toll from the coronavirus was 5,116 early yesterday.
On Tuesday, Mr Trump and physicians advising him said between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the United States were likely to die from the virus in the coming weeks even if Americans adhered closely to stay-at-home guidelines that are in effect till April 30.
A Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the US Department of Defence was working to provide up to 100,000 body bags for use by the civilian authorities in the coming weeks.
Faced with the prospect of Americans needing medical care for Covid-19 but without health insurance, Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence said they were looking into the issue.
Mr Trump has sought to reduce the number of migrants entering the country from Latin America, but said on Wednesday he recognises the US needs migrant workers traditionally allowed into the country to work the farms.
"I have given a commitment to the farmers that they are going to continue to come," he said.
New York state remains the epicentre of the outbreak in the country, accounting for more than a third of the US deaths. Governor Andrew Cuomo told police on Wednesday to enforce rules more aggressively for social distancing.
"Young people must get this message, and they still have not got the message. You still see too many situations with too much density by young people," Mr Cuomo said in imposing rules to close playgrounds, swing sets, basketball courts and similar spaces.
"How reckless and irresponsible and selfish for people not to do it on their own," he added.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference the city was contracting with hotels as part of a massive effort to add 65,000 additional hospital beds by the end of the month. He said the city had arranged to add 10,000 beds at 20 hotels, which have lost most of their guests as travel has stopped.
"This is going to be an epic process during the month of April to build out all that capacity," Mr de Blasio said. "But this goal can be reached."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE