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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senior Trump administration officials discussed shutting down travel from Italy and South Korea as the coronavirus outbreak worsened in those countries, but ultimately decided the virus is spreading too quickly to be contained, sources with direct knowledge of the discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: It's extremely difficult to contain a viral outbreak in a globalized society, and if such a strategy isn't likely to be much help, it's even harder to justify the diplomatic, logistical and economic consequences.

What we're hearing: Several federal agencies, including the State and Defense departments, were concerned about cutting off travel from those countries because the U.S. has a strong military presence in South Korea and Italy's central location in the European Union would complicate restrictions, the sources said.

  • Public health officials involved in the talks also tended to not favor travel bans, which informed the ultimate decision not to restrict travel from Italy and South Korea, one of the sources said.
  • "You want to move towards mitigating, knowing that once you figure out that the virus is spreading consistently across America or in certain spots, there's diminishing returns," the source said.
  • While curtailing travel to China was viewed as having a high return in the early days of the outbreak, the same wasn't true of Italy and South Korea — especially because the virus is spreading through other European countries beyond Italy, the source added.

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short told Axios he wouldn't "comment specifically on conversations we have inside the WH Situation Room and disappointed other[s] do, but the purpose of the task force in part is to allow discussion around many points of view to try to reach the best recommendation possible to deliver to the President. Many viewpoints are represented every day."

What's next: Trump has just arrived on Capitol Hill to discuss options for combatting the economic effects of the coronavirus with Senate Republicans. Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, and trade adviser Peter Navarro are also attending the meeting.

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

46 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.