USDOT Active in Response to Coronavirus, Joel Szabat Tells Senators

Joel Szabat
Joel Szabat, shown testifying at a House hearing in September, told a Senate panel March 4 fighting the coronavirus will require "the efforts of all levels of government." (House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee via YouTube)

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Transportation officials’ supporting role to the COVID-19 outbreak includes daily coordination with aviation industry stakeholders, foreign counterparts and federal agencies, Joel Szabat, acting under secretary for policy at the Department of Transportation, told a Senate panel March 4.

Szabat, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, went on to explain the department is ensuring there is an active airbridge in place for Americans returning from affected areas. Also, DOT is ensuring airlines funnel passenger flights to domestic airports with the capability of screening passengers, and that air and sea cargo traffic between the United States and China continues.

Another priority is that protocols are in place to protect crews of aircraft traveling between the United States and foreign spots, as well as providing alerts about the coronavirus, he added.



“Successful containment and mitigation of the virus to keep the American people safe will depend on the efforts of all levels of government, the public health system, the transportation industry and our communities,” Szabat said in prepared remarks to a subcommittee that oversees aviation. “The ability to sustain transportation services, move emergency relief personnel and commodities, and mitigate adverse economic impacts requires effective transportation policy decisions.”

Szabat’s statement preceded President Donald Trump’s comments at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asked March 7 about the impact to the economy, the president indicated, “I like when people happen to stay in the United States and spend their money in the United States.”

Szabat by Transport Topics on Scribd

Trump continued, “So I think people are staying in the United States more. They’re going to spend their money in the United States. And then this is ended. It will end. People have to remain calm.”

CDC is recommending avoiding nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

As of March 9, there were 35 states reporting cases of COVID-19, the disease occurring from the virus. Overall, CDC indicated there have been 423 cases of individuals with COVID-19, and 19 have died.

RELATED: Coronavirus case confirmed at Port of New York and New Jersey; Economists cautious

One of the individuals testing positive for the coronavirus is Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The agency oversees the George Washington Bridge, home to the country’s top truck bottleneck. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who recently declared a state of emergency, explained to reporters on March 9, “He’s been at the airports, obviously, when many people were coming back with the virus.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

March 11, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee scheduled a hearing on the nomination of Finch Fulton to become assistant Transportation Secretary for transportation policy.

March 11, 10 a.m.: The House Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee examines the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

March 11, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets to review the nomination of Douglas Benevento to become deputy administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

March 15, 9 p.m.: The Democratic National Committee has scheduled a presidential primary debate

Infrastructure Tracker

And then there were two. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden have turned the Democratic presidential contest into a two-man race, though Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is hanging on by a thread. On infrastructure, Sanders touts a climate change-centric approach to modernizing transportation corridors. The former vice president proposes undoing aspects of the tax bill Trump signed into law. 

Freight Corridor

Here’s an idea: Coronavirus gets you to where you want to go on a robust infrastructure plan.


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose subcommittee held a hearing on the coronavirus March 4, and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) have self-quarantined due to exposure to an individual with the coronavirus.

Favorite Video

Boston, where the average driver devotes nearly 150 hours annually stuck in traffic, ranked as the most congested city in the country, according to transportation analytics firm Inrix, Inc.

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J-Mart highlights Montana’s looming political storm.

The Last Word

Would you make sure you get the president the information that a vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable.

Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on March 2


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