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02:00 - Source: CNN Business
Washington CNN  — 

Two unions representing flight attendants, teachers and health care professionals called on the federal government Tuesday to provide a more robust and coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The comments reflect a growing national concern about the spread of the virus and the federal response. The White House last week announced a coronavirus task force that “will lead the Administration’s efforts to monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus.” It is led by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and includes members from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Homeland Security and others.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents nearly 50,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines, issued a list of demands for the federal government, arguing the Trump administration needs to do more to combat the outbreak.

Nelson said she wants the government to engage unions and associations, convene workgroups, issue uniform guidance across industries and distribute materials and supplies to stakeholders.

“People must have confidence in the government’s response and we need action now on this with front-line workers and the general public,” she said during a media call on Tuesday.

“For flight attendants, this isn’t theoretical. Aviation workers are always on the front line of any communicable disease,” said Nelson. Since people can be infected without showing symptoms, “we need to act as if everyone is a potentially an infected person coming from the disease areas,” she added.

In an effort to slow the spread of the virus in the US, President Donald Trump issued a proclamation Friday to begin denying entry to foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival to the US. All flights and passengers from mainland China to the US have also been routed to 11 airports.

Nelson said that each airline carrier is determining individual policies regarding travel and called on the Department of Transportation to issue uniform guidance. She also said the union’s last call with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Aviation Administration was January 22, and another call is expected Tuesday.

On Friday, Nelson told CNN that she was hearing concerns from flight attendants.

“The biggest thing that’s concerning about this virus is that it can be spread by someone who’s asymptomatic, which is a real departure from most of the most of the viruses or communicable diseases that we have been dealing with in recent years,” she said.

CNN has reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Transportation for comment on the unions’ concerns.

Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, which also represents health care workers, said the unions have been working together in terms of prevention and education – holding webinars and providing information – for students and educators.

“It can’t just be us,” said Weingarten, who represents teachers and other school personnel. “It has to be the federal government. This is a major emergency, and they need to do a more robust plan.”

She called on the government to investment more in public health care infrastructure and to provide front line workers with training, equipment and supplies.

Nelson also pointed out that while safety is first and foremost, the threat of pandemic can have a “tremendous” economic impact.

The total number of confirmed cases in China stands at 20,438 as of Tuesday morning, and although the prevalence of the virus remains far lower outside the country, there have been at least 207 cases reported in more than two dozen countries and territories.

The Trump administration has sought to assure Americans about the spread of the virus. On Sunday, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said “there’s no reason for Americans to panic.”