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As of August 2, 2020, there are 4982 open recommendations, of which 508 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.
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Recommendation: To help improve the U.S. aviation sector's preparedness for future communicable disease threats from abroad, the Secretary of Transportation should work with relevant stakeholders, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks. Such a plan could establish a mechanism for coordination between the aviation and public health sectors and provides clear and transparent planning assumptions for a variety of types and levels of communicable disease threats.
Agency: Department of Transportation Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: As of April 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has not developed a national aviation-preparedness plan to respond to communicable disease threats from abroad. DOT partially concurs with our recommendation and agrees that an aviation preparedness plan is needed, but continues to suggest that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have responsibility for communicable disease response and preparedness planning, respectively, and that these departments should lead any efforts to address planning for communicable disease outbreaks, including for transportation. DOT would be in the best position to lead the effort because FAA and DOT have stronger and deeper ties to the relevant stakeholders that would be involved in such a broad effort and is responsible for overseeing the aviation sector. While the DOT and HHS may not agree on which agency should lead the development of a national aviation-preparedness plan, DOT's Office of the Secretary is the liaison to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for Annex 9 to the Chicago Convention, an international aviation treaty. Annex 9 obligates each ICAO member state to establish a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks that pose a public health risk or public health emergency of international concern. In the absence of a national aviation-preparedness plan, DOT officials point to ongoing efforts to engage with interagency partners at DHS and HHS, as well as industry stakeholders, to better collaborate on communicable disease response and preparedness as they relate to civil aviation. For example, in response to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak, DOT reported that it has facilitated conference calls between stakeholders, including federal agencies and aviation stakeholders, and it has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within HHS to update interim guidance for airline crews related to communicable diseases, specifically COVID-19, among other things. While these efforts are helpful, we continue to believe that DOT is in the best position to take the lead in working with its relevant stakeholders to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan, which could guide preparation for communicable diseases nationally and for individual airlines and airports, as well as establish a framework for communication and response for the next communicable disease outbreak. Such a plan should help government minimize and quickly respond to future communicable disease events and garner international cooperation in addressing pandemic issues.