Three Republican Minnesota congressmen skirted regulations and hopped aboard a commercial airline amid fears they had been exposed to COVID-19 via President Donald Trump on Air Force One.
Representatives Pete Stauber, Tom Emmer and Jim Hagedorn were on a Delta Air Lines flight Friday night heading back to Minnesota from Washington, dodging restrictions on passengers suspected of recent exposure to COVID-19, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The men had been on Air Force One with Trump flying from Washington to Minnesota and back just two days earlier and knew he announced very early Friday that he had tested positive for COVID-19. Trump may actually have already tested positive on Wednesday, the day the men were with him, according to an initial statement by White House physician Dr. Sean Conley.
Passengers likely exposed to COVID-19 in the previous 14 days cannot travel on Delta, according to the airline’s policy. Exposure is defined as face-to-face contact or sustained contact for more than 15 minutes less than six feet apart with someone who has the virus.
Hagedorn said on Twitter that he had tested negative for COVID Friday morning, though quick tests soon after exposure aren’t often accurate. He also argued that their interaction with Trump did not breach the airline’s restrictions, according to The Associated Press. Yet the lawmakers were apparently concerned enough about the potential exposure that they informed Delta of their situation, according to Hagedorn.
A Delta spokesperson indicated the airline decided to allow the men to skirt the rules because the aircraft was only 40% full and no passenger protested, the Tribune reported. It’s unclear how many, if any, passengers were fully informed of the situation.
One flyer told the Tribune that he and his fiancee were not told, and would have left the plane had they known.
Democratic Farm-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin slammed the congressmen for flying on the commercial flight.
The men “deliberately put the health and safety of their fellow passengers at serious risk,” Martin said in a statement. “As these congressmen know, medical experts have said that a negative test soon after exposure is nearly meaningless.” Their “disregard for the well-being of their fellow passengers is staggering,” he added.
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