Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) was looking for help from the Trump administration to deal with Chicago’s dangerously crowded O’Hare Airport amid stepped-up screening for the coronavirus ― crowds that made impossible the social distancing urged by health officials.
Instead, Pritzker said an aide to President Donald Trump “yelled at me about the tweet” the governor had posted complaining about the situation.
“Here’s what I got. I got a call at about 11:00 last night after that tweet from a White House staffer who yelled at me about the tweet. That is what I got,” Pritzker said when asked on NBC’s “Meet The Press” about any “reassurance” he received from the Trump administration.
An unnamed White House source insisted to the Washington Examiner: “There was no yelling.”
Pritzker said that to avoid “exactly what you don’t want during this pandemic.” the administration should have provided more federal workers at airports this weekend because of the expected delays stemming from Americans returning to the U.S. because of Trump’s European travel ban. The administration seemed “completely unprepared” as the situation grew worse on Sunday, Pritzker said.
O’Hare was among a number of airports mobbed with the kind of crowds that health experts warn can spread coronavirus as Americans returning home from abroad waited on lines for as long as seven hours. U.S. passengers returning from overseas were funneled through 13 airports where operations were clearly not set up to handle them efficiently.
Pritzker said that U.S. governors are “on our own” concerning what actions to take to battle the spread of the coronavirus because the federal government has “fallen down” on the job. “I wish we had leadership from Washington; we’re not getting it,” he added.
Chicago has shut schools and canceled this year’s St. Patrick Day Parade. Pritzker on Sunday announced that all bars and restaurants in Illinois would close through March 30, beginning at the end of Monday’s business day.
Pritzker fired off an angry tweet on Saturday directed at Trump on Twitter “since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to — you need to do something NOW.” He also tweeted: “The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW.”
Pritzker said on NBC that “we’ve been talking to Customs and Border Patrol officials directly on the ground at O’Hare. I’ve been working with the mayor and our senators to make sure we’re getting the federal government to pay attention to this problem.”
Under new regulations that went into effect Friday at midnight, Americans flying in from most of Europe, China and Iran now face “enhanced entry screening.” They must answer questions about their medical history and current condition, and must provide contact information for local health authorities, according to a Department of Homeland Security statement. They are then being urged to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
Trump on Sunday in a tweet asked the public to “pardon the interruptions and delays.” Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf tweeted earlier that DHS was “aware” of “long lines,” and claimed that screenings took only some “60 seconds.”