Vice President Pence is bringing the CEOs of major airlines to the White House on Wednesday to press for what he described as "greater cooperation" on data that public health officials use to track down passengers when someone on a flight is later found to have coronavirus.
"We'll be meeting with the CEOs of all the major airline carriers here," Pence told reporters. "The topic will be contact tracing data and how we can have a stronger relationship in the 11 airports that have been assisting us with screening personnel coming back into the country."
Pence said he also plans to meet CEOs of leading commercial laboratories on Wednesday to "clear up any potential barriers" to ramping up coronavirus test processing around the country.
The new meetings are part of a series of public events the Trump administration is using as it seeks to demonstrate that it has control of the response to the virus.
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President Trump toured a vaccine lab at the National Institutes of Health on Tuesday and plans to visit the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. Pence will visit a 3M plant in Minnesota that has contracted with the federal government to produce millions of face masks for health workers.
Trump has said his decision in late January to restrict air travel from China was a key factor in slowing the spread of the disease in the United States. His administration has added screening measures for travelers on flights from Italy and South Korea — two other hot spots for the virus — and he said on Tuesday he is considering further limits on incoming travelers for those two countries and Japan.
However, Trump backed away from comments he made earlier this week about closing the southern border, noting that coronavirus levels did not warrant that measure at this time.
The Washington Post reported that the administration and airlines are at an impasse over sharing data about passengers.
The Airlines for America lobby group said in a statement that airline CEOs would meet on Wednesday morning with Pence to discuss "pragmatic" solutions. The group said it had already provided the administration with "solutions to help contain and stop the spread" of coronavirus, "even offering to pay for the implementation of a website and mobile app" for contact data.
Pence met Tuesday with Republican and Democratic senators who raised concerns about sufficient testing for the virus, and he plans to meet with House members on Wednesday, he said.
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